Puyo dayon—these words were emblazoned on a billboard by the road en route to our hotel from the Cebu Airport last August 2018. The expression means “reside immediately,” and carries the sense of relief that comes with finally finding a home. The phrase is an innovative payment scheme making owning a home as easy as paying rent—the perfect callout for a low-cost housing development in Mactan Island in Cebu called Bayanihan Flats.
The Housing and Urban Development Coordination Council (HUDCC) projected that the state housing backlog as of 2016 is at 3.9 million. Even if the state manages to produce 200,000 units daily until the year 2030, the backlog would still bloat to 6.5 million households. This shortage is felt most by the poor because, ironically, we have an oversupply of high-priced units.
Key shelter agencies classify housing depending on the prices. Socialized housing units are from 450,000 pesos and below, economic housing units are from 450,000 to 1.25 million pesos, and Low-cost ranges from 1.25 million to 3 million pesos. Meanwhile, medium-cost and open-market units would be 3 million to 4 million pesos and above, respectively. Bayanihan Flats, with the cost of a unit ranging from 1.2 million to 2.6 million pesos, is within the economic to the low-cost range.
Developer Rere King, founder of RDAK Land, saw the need for economic housing after probing the statistics and interviewing one of his civil engineers who allocated most of his income to rent a small space for his family. In Cebu, about 200,000 to 300,000 households are renters. “Of course, that’s a given in any business; but we do not just build for profit,” says Bayanihan Flats project director Ire Claudette Mansueto-Faelnar. “Through this project, we want to build a community while we address one of the major issues in the country. We might not be the only answer, but we can definitely be one of the answers,” she continues.
King enlisted the services of CYC Architecture for the structure and site plan, and LLG Architects for the façade and interior architecture. They envisioned six walk-up buildings with 72 units in each, housed over four floors. There are 16 units per floor, a mix of four double flats and 12 single flats. At the time of writing, three buildings have been completed and occupied, with the fourth underway. The construction of the entire project with its two-story commercial strip by the road and leisure amenities is expected to wrap up by the first quarter of 2020.
Because of the Puyo Dayon payment scheme, the development does not require a downpayment, nor the industry-standard 20 percent of the entire contract price, to be settled before turnover. Before interested tenants move in, they only need to pay the reservation and move-in fees which total to 35,000 pesos. The rest of the balance can be fulfilled by an in-house contract or a bank/Pag-Ibig amortization, for as low as 7523 pesos. Mansueto-Faelnar mentions that this is a comfortable range for households earning 20,000 to 30,ooo pesos a month.
Security is a top feature with all the buildings equipped with RFID access. The building’s main entrance is located at the base of a stairwell fully ventilated by vertical grilles powder-coated to look like timber. Horizontal grilles in front of the windows buffer sunlight in the landings. The finishes in the circulations area are spartan and hard-wearing—raw concrete steps and floors, steel railings, and exposed pipes that they painted red—all reasonable decisions to keep costs low. The corridors do not make use of any air-conditioning and rely on natural air circulating from the stairwell to the fire exits at the end of the hall.
“Low-cost housing options doesn’t mean they have to look cheap,” shares LLG design principal Leizle Go. This was the mantra in crafting the spaces and model interiors of Bayanihan Flats. All the units have ample fenestrations and they also come with a small balcony for additional ventilation and utilities. For example, the two-bedroom double flats bookend each floor. The bedrooms facing the corridor have operable windows to utilize the natural light streaming into the space from each access point. Another key move for LLG was to raise the ceilings from 2.7 to 3.0 meters in order to accommodate bunk beds and create bigger spaces. “We want the inhabitants to be able to sit down on top of the loft bunk beds,” states Go. “Therefore we needed a clearance of 2.8 meters leaving 0.2 meters for the slab.”
For the showroom units, LLG created space-saving furniture pieces that interested tenants can order for their own units. Moreover, all the Pinterest-worthy home decor and accessories were sourced from 138, Cebu’s equivalent of Divisoria. The styling of each unit gives homeowners ideas on how they can maximize the use of their space functionally and aesthetically, even on a small budget. Bayanihan Flats offer four layouts: a double flat for a family, a single flat for a single user, and two single flats for sharing.
You know something is working when word gets around and more people are emulating what you are doing—and the Cebu real estate scene is buzzing with the Bayanihan template. “We have received feedback from other brokers. Some developers have considered changing their business model from house-and-lots to walk-ups. I think that’s great,” says Faelnar. “We can’t saturate the entire market anyway. And the gap that needs to be filled is huge.” Although the architecture will remain to be Bayanihan’s, infusing its spirit in more projects is definitely a way forward to address the housing backlog. Neighbors transporting each other’s homes on their shoulders is an icon in Filipino traditions—it’s about time we are able to translate it into our contemporary architecture.