The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading the bill seeking to consolidate all housing agencies with the creation of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, chair of the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement, said passage into law of Senate Bill No. 1578, which seeks a single housing department, would streamline bureaucracy and compel shelter agencies to “work together more harmoniously and connect their plans and programs.”

Ejercito said the government, for the last 30 years, has no rational and systematic way of addressing the nation’s housing needs.

“We continue to be challenged with problems of overcrowding, restrictions in unlocking land for human settlements, increasing number of homeless people and multiplying families living in slums, riverbanks and danger zones,” Ejercito said in his sponsorship speech of the measure.

Against this backdrop, the senator said the country is facing more than two million housing needs this year. The figure is projected to balloon to 6,571,387 by the end of 2022.

“What we need is one housing department with one board working towards one direction… creating the roadmap for housing and urban development, leading its implementation, setting the general direction for everyone and able to follow through each and every project with clear functions, policies, budget and financing,” Ejercito said.

The lawmaker said the creation of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development would combine the administrative functions of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the planning and regulatory functions of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).

The department would be responsible for all housing and urban concerns, including planning, policy-making, regulations, program coordination, and performance monitoring.