Tuesday, October 21, 2008

20 years of CMP

Philippine Star
Letters to the Editor

20 years of CMP

Monday, September 15, 2008

Almost 20 years ago, in a squatter settlement in Taguig called Joseph Sitt, a program with the prosaic name of Community Mortgage Program was launched.

The name was chosen on purpose in order to cloak with the mantle of financial respectability what was in reality a risky social undertaking: long-term mortgage loans to squatters, or in the more politically correct term: “informal settlers.”

We now hear that the financial world is reeling because of sub-prime mortgages. How much lower than sub-prime are loans to squatters?

And yet, after 20 years there is this inexplicable statistic: of all loans of all past housing programs of all the government financing agencies, the best repayment record is that of the Community Mortgage Program.

We extol, and with great justification, the housing program of Gawad Kalinga. But GK can only go where the problem of land tenure of the squatters has been resolved. And GK can not be supported by international social lenders or NGOs because beneficiaries are not required to pay for their houses. And so, we must give great credit for their accomplishments to the GK organization, their primary religious backers — the Couples For Christ movement, and their institutional, corporate and individual donors.

In contrast, CMP beneficiaries have to: a) organize and form legal associations, b) determine group affordability through socio-economic surveys, c) undertake structure mapping and allocation of land areas, d) negotiate with land owners, e) arrange long-term mortgage financing, f) secure the necessary government approvals and licenses, and g) effect collection and repayment of individual amortizations. At the second phase of the program, the occupied lots are surveyed and titles issued to individual members.

Moreover, unlike GK which can only operate where housing sites have been donated, CMP is now being implemented in all our highly-urbanized cities and municipalities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

While a single GK organization implements their program, a nation-wide group of NGOs are assisting urban poor groups applying for the program. In addition, groups from third-world countries in Asia and Africa have come here to study the program and launch their own versions of it.
Why is the CMP in such great demand?
Here are some reasons:

1) CMP addresses only the most pressing problem — legal land tenure. (Experience has shown that once land ownership is achieved, self-help basic services and home improvement capacities surprisingly follow.)

2) CMP is undertaken directly by the beneficiaries. (NHA or any other branch of government does not participate in land acquisition or site development.)

3) Both landowners and informal settlers benefit. (In many cases, landowners have received no benefit from their property for 20 or more years, while the settlers have been for the same period under constant threat of eviction.)

4) The CMP has the best cost-benefit ratio of any government social program. (The land areas occupied by individual families are so small that even at current market values per square meter, monthly amortizations are affordable even to the urban poor.)

5) Probably most important of all, CMP beneficiaries are not uprooted away from their places of employment, schooling, family and friends.

It must be said, however, that the CMP has still not solved its major problem: it still takes two years from loan application to payment of the land being purchased. Consequently, there is an ever-growing backlog of pending applications and thwarted dreams. It appears the current CMP implementors are still viewing the program as a financial (sub-prime?) instrument rather than as government’s most cost-effective social program for the urban poor.

Nevertheless, credit must be given to those responsible for having given security of land tenure to almost 200,000 families.

And so, as we approach CMP’s 20th anniversary, I would like to pay tribute to the following: 1) Bimbo Fernandez of Cebu’s pioneering Pantabayayong, Bill Keyes of Freedom to Build and Fr. Jorge Anzorena (Magsaysay awardee) of Selavip whose work inspired CMP’s creation; 2) the late Chuck Doble while in HIGC and Monchet Albert while in NHMFC for CMP’s implementing mechanics; 3) Sonny Belmonte while in GSIS and Joey Cuisia while in SSS for their courage in providing initial funding for the program; and 4) the congressional housing committee chairs, Amado Bagatsing and Pong Biazon for their much appreciated budgetary support for the program.

May their tribe increase. — Teodoro K. Katigbak, former chair, HUDCC; chair, Urban Poor Associates, Foundation For the Development of the Urban Poor

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