Govt cuts processing time for affordable housing

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GOVERNMENT agencies at the end of last week announced steps to reduce processing time and procedures for homeowners of a key affordable housing program and for members of the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG), in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to cut red tape in government services.

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On Thursday, Vice President Leni Robredo signed new rules intended to reduce the number of required documents and cut the processing time for socialized housing projects under the High Density Housing and the Community Mortgage Programs (CMP).

Robredo is the chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), and in that capacity also the chair of the boards of directors of the Social Housing Finance Corp. (SHFC), the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), Pag-IBIG, the National Housing Authority, the Home Guaranty Corp., and the National Home Mortgage Finance Corp.

Under the new rules, communities and homeowners associations covered by the CMP will only have to submit nine documents instead of the previous 27, reducing processing time that previously took as long as two years.

The Community Mortgage Program is a financing scheme managed by the SHFC that provides funding for associations of low-income or otherwise underprivileged people to purchase and develop land for housing. The president of SHFC, Ana Oliveros, explained that under the new rules the agency would take a bigger role in assisting the would-be communities launch their developments.

“SHFC itself will procure several documents from government agencies and LGUs on behalf the communities,” Oliveros said in an emailed statement, also pointing out that this would prevent homeowners’ associations from being subjected to unlawful “facilitation fees.”

The new rules also direct the HLURB and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to coordinate their procedures for the registration of homeowners associations, which have encountered delays in the past due to conflicting regulations. The HLURB will develop an integrated online database for the registration of homeowner-members of associations, while the BIR will decentralize its registration processing of capital gains tax exemptions.

The new rules also call for the processes for the acquisition and registration of land for housing developments to be streamlined, although some details remain to be ironed out. The HLURB is directed to coordinate with the Department of Agrarian Reform to develop a land-use classification that will eliminate the need for communities to obtain another level of clearance from the latter agency to convert agricultural land to residential use, while the Land Registration Authority is directed to find ways to better facilitate the issuance of land titles for community housing projects.

“Ultimately, our goal is streamline all processes and processing time will be reduced to 15 to 30 days,” Robredo said in a statement. “This is also in line with our strategy to mainstream community-driven approaches to urban development and housing.”

Pag-IBIG loans processed in one day
Meanwhile, the Home Development Mutual Fund, or Pag-IBIG, announced on Friday that it is cutting the processing time for housing loans to just 24 hours from the previous 30 days.

“Pag-IBIG Fund is continuously implementing reforms and introducing innovative programs that would ensure the provision of more benefits to Pag-IBIG members,” Pag-IBIG Fund president, Darlene Berberabe, said in a statement.

Berberabe’s statement also highlighted a number of other recent improvements the agency has recently implemented, such as an increase in the burial benefit for the fund’s borrowers, which was raised to P22,000 from the previous P20,000.

The increase was part of a package of improvements that were actually finalized in June of this year, and which include several key changes to the agency’s Mortgage Redemption Insurance (MRI) program.

Under the program, the MRI provides for the outstanding amount of the housing loan to be written off upon the death of the borrower, provided that amortization payments are up-to-date. The loan will also be paid if the borrower suffers total permanent disability, and provides up to P500,000 of amortization coverage in case of terminal illness. The new insurance package also now includes an experience refund provision, which refunds 20 percent of the insurer’s profits to the insured borrower.

In another move intended to make processes faster for borrowers, Pag-IBIG also obtained authorization from the BIR to file electronic tax returns and receive the required electronic Certificate Authorizing Registration (eCAR) on behalf of its members, thus saving prospective borrowers an extra step in the loan application process.

“Some of our member-borrowers are on a ‘no work, no pay’ employment and skipping work just to complete the housing loan requirements will have an impact on their salary. With this arrangement, Pag-IBIG housing-loan borrowers will no longer have to personally go to the BIR to apply for the issuance of eCAR, saving them precious time and resources,” Berberabe explained.

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