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Davao City, Philippines

HLURB unearths socialized housing project scam

November 07, 2019 - Thursday 6:11 PM by Ruth Palo

Article Banner Image HOUSING. A file photo shows a pedal tricycle traversing the spacious concrete road of a National Housing Authority resettlement site. MinDA

DAVAO CITY -- The Housing and Land  Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) has issued Cease and Desists Orders (CDOs) on almost 300 housing projects of housing developers for alleged failure to provide socialized housing projects in compliance with the Balanced Housing Act and instead claiming National Housing Authority (NHA) projects as their own.
 
In a phone interview with the Mirror, HLURB Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao said it was found out during the conduct of digitalization and geo-tagging that most of the socialized housing projects that were claimed by the said developers are actually projects of the NHA.

“So, there’s already a misrepresentation. But due to geo-tagging, it was found out that a project of NHA and the project declared as socialized housing in compliance (with the Balanced Housing Act by) private developers are one and the same,” Lao said.

He said this prompted the HLURB to conduct an investigation and asked NHA to submit a list of all government funded projects.

“We compared our documents with NHA but it showed that the documents we have are all falsified,” he said.

Lao said the purpose of geo-tagging is for the buyers and the government agencies to easily verify and locate projects through Google Maps or Google Earth.

“If you are a buyer and you are outside the country, it is easy for you to look for it through  Google Maps,” he said.

CONSTRUCTION. Workers fix metal bars in a construction site of a condominium along CM Recto Street in Davao City. KEITH BACONGCO- MINDANEWS

Under the Balanced Housing Development Act (Republic Act 10884),  owners and/or developers of proposed subdivisions and condominium projects are required to develop an area for socialized housing equivalent to at least 15 percent of the total subdivision area or total subdivision project cost and at least five percent of condominium area or project cost.

The law allows joint-venture projects for socialized housing with either the local government units or any of the housing agencies or with another private developer, or with a nongovernmental organization engaged in the provision of socialized housing and duly accredited by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board as a mode of compliance.

But according to the HLURB documents, the agreements entered into between the socialized housing developer and the private developer are not considered valid joint ventures.

“One, the Joint Venture Agreement entered into is not between NHA and the private developer, but rather, between a supposed socialized housing developer and the private developer,” the document states.

“Two, the socialized housing developer misrepresented information stating that they are the owners of the project and that it is not funded by NHA,” it adds.

“Three, for it to be a valid Joint Venture Agreement, it must be declared and annotated on the Title of the property. And lastly, upon verification with the records of NHA, it is proven that such project is fully funded by NHA,” the document states.

HOUSING TALK. A file photo of Attorney Lloyd Christopher Lao in one of his housing speaking engagements in 2017. VER VASQUEZ FACEBOOK VIDEO SCREEN CAPTURE 

According to the HLURB document, the  joint venture agreements entered into between the parties “concealed that such projects are NHA projects and that they have already been fully-funded by NHA.”

“When I took into office in 2017, we had the projects audited. All projects were audited and identified,” Lao said.

A total of 296 condominium and subdivision projects scattered all over the country were issued CDOs for utilizing NHA-funded projects as compliance to the Balanced Housing Act. 

Of the 296, Southern Tagalog Regions has  the highest numbers of projects totalling to 93, Northern Tagalog Region with 85, Expanded National Capital Region with 46, Central Visayas with 40, Western Visayas Region with 16, Northern Luzon with 14, and one project each for Bicol Region and Northern Mindanao.

These developers, according to Lao, are no longer allowed to sell and collect payments, and are likewise prohibited from continuing any development for the units of the main project until they will comply with RA 10884 which is to produce socialized housing.

Lao said he strongly believes that HLURB regional directors and some of its employees are involved in the anomalous transactions.

“Most likely they are part of it because they will be the one to sign the license to sell,” he stressed.

He said NHA had nothing to do with the fraudulent acts as they were purely the collaboration of the contractors and some personnel of HLURB.

Lao said after the discovery of hundreds of fictitious socialized housing projects, they immediately issued orders for the rotation of the regional officers to be assigned in different regions to avoid familiarity between the agency and the clients.

Several measures have also been imposed such as coordination with other government agencies in the implementation of its functions, including Land Registration Authority and Registry of Deeds in the annotation of final and executory orders.

Lao said they are still awaiting the decision of the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the issue for possible prosecution of these housing developers and erring personnel of HLURB.
 

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