From 12-16 December 2016, a team from LinkBuild and from Homeless People’s Federation Philippines (HPFPI) held several workshops and activities in Talisay City with their partner community, the Kimba Cansojong Homeowner’s Association (KCHAI). This is the second major stage of an ongoing process of jointly working with KCHAI to find sustainable solutions towards owning the land they have occupied for around 30 years, and having decent houses.
To refresh, the first stage of project development took place in early 2016, when the LinkBuild Team led an intensive market research and feasibility study undertaken by a big team that included KCHAI community leaders, and representatives from Philippine Alliance partners (HPFPI, TAMPEI, PACSII, COREACS).
The findings of the studies more accurately and analytically informed the project and financial modelling exercises, and the development of preliminary site layout schemes, that ensued. These were all duly presented to the LinkBuild Board for approval.
The second stage of activities involved more workshops with the community to present to them the findings of the studies. More importantly, the various elements and aspects of the proposed project were discussed in more detail. Evening workshops were held to obtain community inputs on the project concept, elements and approach, as well as on details of the preliminary site layout and house designs, and possible finance facilities. Finally, a major theme stressed throughout was the importance of community action and savings to project success.
It also involved firming up engagement and partnership with the local government - for the project as well as for other joint initiatives of the Philippine Alliance in Talisay City.
On the side, a couple of technical meetings and site visits were held with various companies as part of LinkBuild’s exploration of existing wastewater treatment systems, and alternative building technologies.
Four consecutive community workshops, were held in the evening, from around 7:30 PM– 10:30 PM, as most of the members had to work during the day.
On the first night, the members expressed their individual expectations, and raised the lingering questions that they have been wanting answers to.
To summarise, expectations revolved mostly around four areas: (a) having a house and plot that they could afford; (b) successful implementation of the project; (c) introducing livelihood activities and other programs to increase household incomes; (d) that they (the members) will qualify and be eligible for the house and plot package and not be asked to move out.
Questions from the members mostly revolved around details of the project, i.e., plot size, house design, implementation and turnover time frame, etc.; Most members were also interested to know about the terms of end-user financing – i.e. price, loan terms, monthly repayments, etc.
The members were also refreshed as to past processes and steps already undertaken under this initiative in order to get this far. Similary, the Philippine Alliance was re-introduced and the workings of its institutions were again explained to the community members.
Thereafter, the outcome of previous market and feasibility research was shared with the members, leading to the introduction of the basics of the mixed income approach to housing development, as key to the project being viable.
The final activity for the night, which became by far the most animated and richest in terms of inputs, was a Dream Community Workshop, wherein the members worked in groups to collectively draw what elements they would like to see – tangible and intangible - in their dream community. The inputs of the groups were to be used to ensure that, despite the tightness of the site, prioritized elements would be taken into consideration, in the final community and site design.
The second night’s activities were started off with another lively workshop by having the members analyse and critique a preliminary site layout scheme presented to them.
The members yet again worked in groups to analyse the scheme from three different angles, namely, the configuration of income mixes, the plan’s potential impact and effect to the larger neighbourhood, and the presence of the elements of their dream community. These led to very dynamic discussions amongst members as they visualized themselves living in the community. As they did so, they were able to surface potential issues and opportunities and had discussions around how to manage them collectively.
Aspects highlighted were security, the need for open space for various social and economic activities, the need for the community’s various enterprises to be easily accessed by the greater neighbourhood without sacrificing security and safety, as well as potentially selling services like water supply to outsiders (if community-managed).
To help members to visualize the actual plot size and house footprint, these were measured on the ground for all to see. Most members were happy with the plot size of 28 sq. meters.
On the third night, various housing design schemes tailored to different affordability levels were presented to the members for feedback and inputs.
The members were carefully taken through three house design schemes and their respective features. They were encouraged to critique, asked questions and provide inputs and ideas on how the schemes could be improved. One of the most striking amongst the various inputs from members, was their need for economic and/or flexible space. As many are doing or want to do home-based income generating activities, they expressed the need for such space. Others also dream of buying and operating their own pedicabs or tricycles, and will need space within their plots to park them.
For the members, the night’s workshop was the most crucial, as prices for the various house types and corresponding loan terms were presented and discussed.
In the afternoon prior to this workshop, Ms. Ruby Haddad from HPFPI, facilitated a focus group discussion amongst the poorest members of KCHAI. The discussion was aimed at understanding the affordability levels of the poorest members, as well as challenging them to save more. They positively responded to the challenge of saving the amount of P100 everyday. The loan terms presented for the most affordable house, infrastructure and plot package would require that members are able to save at least P105 daily over two years, in order to raise the required deposit, and around P130 daily thereafter, for the loan repayment, which was broken down into three 5-year loan cycles.
This was generally accepted as doable for many, except for a number of households with only one income earner, or those with large families.
The last night was devoted to a more in depth discussion with the KCHAI and HPFPI leaders to assess the activities of the last three nights. They also shared the already ongoing initiative to help those who are likely to find it difficult to save P100/day. HPFPI-Talisay and KCHAI have already been preparing to launch various livelihood activities for community members to help them augment their incomes. In addition, they are also planning to set up a fund from where members who would fall short of their monthly loan obligations, for example, could borrow the deficit amount.
It was consensually affirmed by all parties - KCHAI, LinkBuild, HPFPI and COREACS – that all will put in their best effort and creativity to assure a project design whereby the poorest but deserving members of KCHAI are not excluded.
On December 13, 2016, the LinkBuild Team, together with HPFPI, PACSII and KCHAI representatives, was able to seek audience with key contacts in the Talisay City government. The group was first introduced to the Vice Mayor of Talisay City, Hon. Alan Bucao, and then had a more-than 2-hour session with Councillor Doroteo Emit, Chairman of the Committee on Housing. He was joined by his Executive Assistant, Mr. Ireneo Leuterio, who has been instrumental in bridging the partnership with the Philippine Alliance, as well as representatives from the City’s Land and Housing Office which included their new head.
The LGU officials intently listened to the presentation given by Philippine Alliance team to introduce the institutions, and more importantly, the proposed land and housing project for which KCHAI members would be the primary clients/beneficiaries.
The presentation was well received and the initiative very much welcomed by the Councillor and his team. Possible areas for collaboration and support were discussed, foremost of which included the City’s initiative to formulate a new shelter plan, within which one of the strategies being explored would be the setting up of a guarantee fund available to community associations.
The meeting was concluded with a discussion on plans for the drafting and signing of a partnership agreement between the Talisay LGU and the Philippine Alliance institutions, which is targeted to be signed by early 2017.