This writer discussed in the previous column why the mass housing project of Bacolod City Mayor-Elect Albee Benitez is significant, even historic in some aspects.
This part looks into some questions that could be relevant to the project broken down mainly into three aspects: baseline data integrity, financing scheme, project sustainability, and social re-engineering.
First, what is the study on the homelessness problem in the city?
How many of the projected 600,000 plus population are still homeless? What studies have been conducted under the past administration to know this?
The Leonardia administration has reported the building of two relocation sites – the two phases of Progreso Village, all in the village of Vista Alegre.
How many informal settler families can both phases accommodate? How many units have been used?
If so, does the informal settlers count still stands at more than 300,000 Bacolodnons or half the city’s population?
How much was really spent for the two phases of Progreso Village?
In a nutshell: what is the baseline data for the informal settler problem in Bacolod City?
There are a host of other questions like: how are ISFs concentrated in each village in Bacolod? How many can qualify for on-site development? How many need to be relocated off-site?
Related to actual development, how many hectares of government land are available on which to build these housing units? Who would build these?
The most crucial aspect, however, is the financing of the project.
Allies of Mayor-Elect Benitez, among them presumptive housing czar Vladimir Gonzalez, have confirmed the city will be floating bonds to finance the project.
Bonds are essentially debts that can be issued by the local government unit as a municipal corporation to finance its projects.
In essence, anyone can buy the bonds but at this point, some questions can already be asked:
Can the city be certified financially healthy for it to do a bond float? Related to this, how deep is the city in debt now?
Too, how can the Benitez government make sure that the project will be self-liquidating and income producing?
In terms of the project practicability, how long will the process take from application to approval before the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that must approve an LGUs request to issue bonds?
How will it affect the actual implementation timeline?
Perhaps crucial, too, is the social engineering aspect that would greatly determine the project’s sustainability.
How then, can the city ensure a change in attitude among the urban poor, the project beneficiaries, who are heavily influenced by partisan political groups and steeped in the thinking of relying on government dole outs?
How can the city bring about a change in attitudes and promote the love for labor, productivity and hard work?
Also, there is a need to bring about orderliness and cleanliness, traits that are needed to keep these housing units in good condition and keep them from becoming centers of urban blight or worse, centers of crime.
How can this be ensured?
The mass housing project of Albee Benitez is no doubt historic but there will be challenges.
It is up to us citizens to either help in making it succeed or stand idly by and see it fail.