BLISS is back: BBM wants mid-rise, high-rise housing projects

Inspired by his late father and namesake’s socialized housing program BLISS or Bagong Lipunan Improvement of Sites and Services project in the 80s, President Marcos is prioritizing the development of mid- to high-rise buildings to immediately provide affordable and decent homes to the country’s low-income and informal settler families, particularly in urban and dense areas like Metro Manila.

With this, Marcos is confident the country’s 6.5 million housing backlog will be addressed before he steps down in 2028.

Marcos’ low-cost housing project will not just serve as a dwelling place for Filipinos, but will also create a “functioning” community, having the concept of a township or mixed-use developments, where commercial and recreational spaces are accessible, according to Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) spokesperson Undersecretary Avelino Tolentino III.

DHSUD Undersecretary Avelino Tolentino III

“(We will build) a functioning community where (Filipinos) do not just live in decent homes but also have access to various services,” Tolentino said, noting the township concept will also spur economic activities in the countryside.

“It’s like pump-priming the economy in these areas,” the official said, citing the expected increase in people’s spending and tax collection of host local government units (LGUs), among others.

Given the scarcity of land in urban areas, the administration sees mid- to high-rise residential towers as the most efficient solution to the country’s housing woes.

Tolentino said DHSUD has signed several memoranda of agreement with the LGUs for the construction of low-cost housing under the Marcos government’s Pambansang Pabahay para sa Pilipino Program.

The Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund announced late last month the provision of P250 billion to the Marcos’ administration socialized housing program.

DHSUD Secretary Jose Rizalino Acuzar said the government aims to build six million housing units in the next six years.

Tolentino, meanwhile, said the onsite, in-city relocation would also ensure that residents remain close to their jobs and livelihood as well as to social services.

“Through the in-city approach, we expect no resistance from those who will be relocated,” he pointed out.

To ensure the safety of the residents, studies have been conducted on the sites of the future residential buildings, including the areas’ topography, soil quality, and whether they are considered flight paths, Tolentino said.

The mid-rise buildings of about four- to five-story are expected to be completed by the end of 2023, the official said, while the high-rise structures – with 25 to 30 floors – are likely to be completed in three years.

“(The high-rise building) will have 25 units per floor, with each unit having a floor area of up to 27 square meters,” he said.

The DHSUD official noted the residential towers — which construction is more expensive than low-rise structures – will be built in metro cities, where workers receive slightly bigger wages and are capable of paying higher amortization.

He said the LGUs are in charge of selecting the housing beneficiaries as they are more familiar with their constituents.

Tolentino said the government would like to ensure the low-income families and informal settlers are the ones benefiting from the project.

He said the government is preparing an executive order which will reserve all idle state-owned lands – estimated to be more than 16,000 hectares – for government housing projects.

The EO will implement Section 24 of Republic Act 11201, the act which created the DHSUD, which mandates several government agencies to jointly identify idle state lands suitable for housing and rural development.

The use of government land would also help lower the amortization of housing units, Tolentino said.

On Monday, the President led the turnover of 30,000 house and lot units from the National Housing Authority’s in Naic, Cavite, where he announced the replication of his father’s BLISS project.

The BLISS project spearheaded the construction of mid-rise housing units, particularly in urban areas in the 1980s. The program was under the stewardship of former first lady Imelda Marcos, who was also minister of human settlement at the time.

“When my mother was the minister of human settlements, we had a complete housing project. But it (housing sector) was neglected that’s why now we have a huge backlog that we have to catch up,” the President said in Filipino.

Marcos had expressed willingness to provide incentives to private banks and other financial institutions that would finance socialized housing projects.

Acuzar had said the government’s housing program would need P36 billion a year for the next six years to wipe out the housing backlog by the end of Marcos’ term.