Urban poor residents score vs rent interest impositions

RESIDENTS of Southville 3 in Muntinlupa City ended their rally today in a triumphant note after National Housing Authority (NHA) officials agreed to lift housing interest rates imposed on them since 2009.

Armed with an endorsement from Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) chairman Terry Ridon  and accompanied by former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, Sandigan at Malayang Samahan ng Southville 3 (Sama-Sama sa SV3) members finally won an audience with NHA Muntinlupa officials and allowed to present their complaints against rent and interest impositions.

The residents were forcibly relocated to Southville 3 from their previous communities along Philippine National Railways tracks by the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government.

Sama-Sama sa SV3 chairperson Alon Caluna said Southville 3 was presented to them as free housing by Arroyo’s Presidential Proclamation No. 234 when they were relocated in 2009.

They were immediately asked to sign a usufruct agreement, however, contents of which were not explained to them until much later.

The residents later found out that the houses were under NHA administration and they were supposed to pay rent as specified in the agreement.

Caluna said the NHA never provided them a copy of the usufruct agreement, which only allows use of the Southville properties without actual ownership.

Interest was then added to the rent, and the prices increased beyond the financial capabilities of most residents, he said.

Sama-Sama sa SV3 repeatedly asked the local NHA office for a dialogue but attempts were rejected until Ridon’s endorsement.

After the dialogue, Colmenares said NHA officials agreed to remove the interest from the residents’ rent.

The NHA officials, for their part, said they would issue a resolution approving of a possible move by the legislative or executive branches of government to award Southville 3 to its current residents.

“They say they cannot do anything directly due to previous Presidential Proclamations,” Colmenares said.

“There will also be letters sent to President Rodrigo Duterte regarding the situation. If a Presidential Proclamation has created a problem, then another one can solve it,” Colmenares added.

Colmenares called on the people to continue their campaign for better housing.

“All of this was achieved due to the continued collective action of the people. The steps we are taking to follow it up would mean nothing if we do not have the support of the united residents continuing the struggle,” Colmenares said. (Report an photo by Abril Layad B. Ayroso)