EDITORIAL: Housing Projects and The Concept of Human Settlement
A few days ago, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. launched the 4PH Program in Camarines Sur, and Naga City, the home province of then VP Leni Robredo, his rival in the recent presidential elections. The target is to build five residential towers with 11,880 housing for the province and 6,000 housing units for Nagueños.
The projects were launched under the new Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) which was created under Republic Act No. 11201 and was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 14, 2019. The DHSUD is a merger of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).
As expected, the project has created a huge political ruckus among local politicians and residents who have been divided during the presidential elections where now President BBM was naturally crushed by then VP Robredo. The concept of human settlement was ruined by politics with little understanding of social science and spatial development. The real idea of human settlement has been abbreviated and rationalized by the need for immediate housing schemes to satisfy the emergency needs of victims of calamities, and to consume the budget for relocation with financial rebates to some government functionaries.
The true concept of human settlement is to help decongest a crowded city, and to open new areas for social and economic dispersal. It is an all-human concept, a place where people will choose to live, and not forced to relocate. It is a totality of a human community with social, economic, recreational, spiritual, and cultural elements needed for peaceful and enjoyable living. Residents’ interaction, safety, livelihood, and presence, or at least accessible, center of commerce and education, are critical considerations. Hence, location or site is an important factor for project planners.
Before the present design of DHSUD, many housing projects were constructed with little consideration of the true idea of human settlement. Hence, they were later abandoned by the beneficiaries, some were sold to enterprising people for failure to maintain. The present 4PH housing program has been planned in consideration of the natural needs of a modern community. We are not expecting to have SMART human settlement projects, but with the advent of technical innovations, the new program is anticipated to produce better outcomes than former government-sponsored ones.
The on-going improvement in all aspects of human life will hopefully reestablish the nature-driven concept of human settlement. The projects must make people’s lives more bearable if not more comfortable and sustainable than before. This aspiration remains to be seen.