Shelter for the Urban Poor in the Philippines: Building Capacity to Develop and Implement Inclusive and Effective Large-Scale Solutions

Key Contact
Yan Zhang
Start Date
End Date
Funding Amount
$ 48,521
Knowledge-providing Countries
Knowledge-receiving Countries


To develop a national framework for providing housing and shelter options for the marginalized urban poor, officials from the Philippines engaged in an exchange with Brazil. They learned how to develop subsidy and incentive programs to engage a wide cross-section of public and private stakeholders, developing their own National Informal Settlements Upgrading Strategy.


The government of the Philippines sought to improve living conditions in its urban areas and to provide decent shelter for its poor, marginalized citizens as part of its larger agenda to achieve sustainable growth and development. The Philippines enacted several major policy initiatives, including the President’s Social Contract with the Filipino People, the Philippines Development Plan 2011-16. Also, it committed PhP 50 billion (US$1.2 billion) to provide shelter for informal settlers living in danger zones in Metro Manila during 2011-16. These efforts were designed to address challenges such as low levels of public investment, absence of a sustainable housing policy, weak political commitment to carrying out large-scale slum upgrading initiatives, and high-income real estate market concentration. 

Despite policy progress, the Filipino government still lacked the knowledge and capacity to develop and implement sustainable policies, and to coordinate interventions for low-income housing and slum upgrading in the country’s major urban areas.


The Philippines requested World Bank support for an exchange with Brazil to learn from its coordinated efforts in incorporating urban housing in its national development strategy and to promote inclusive, effective, and sustainable approaches to low-income shelter.
Filipino participants came from national and local government, including housing authorities, led by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council. Brazilian knowledge providers were officials of the Cities, Finance, and Planning and Budget ministries as well as municipal and local housing agencies. The exchange included:

  • Planning Sessions. Participants engaged in several planning sessions, including one on September 26, 2013, to determine the scope and objectives of, and schedule for, a study visit to Brazil.
  • Study Visit to Brazil. Eight Filipino officials and one representative of the private sector visited Brazil during November 18-22, 2013. They met with officials in Brasilia to gain an overview of national housing and infrastructure policies and programs as well as subsidies programs. They also visited Sao Paulo and observed approaches to urbanization and land regularization of informal settlements; social work and condominium management in low-income housing communities; data collection and monitoring; and coordination of federal housing programs at the local level. They also visited communities with housing for those relocated from areas at risk of flooding and landslides. The study visit concluded with a brainstorming session where key lessons learned and replication potential of the Brazilian case, were discussed.
  • Post-Visit Peer-to-Peer Consultations and Roundtable. The Bank facilitated two-follow up workshops: one on June 26, 2014, focused on estate management of low-income housing experiences from Brazil, and another on August 27, 2014, focused on citywide informal settlement upgrading. It also organized a roundtable discussion for participants to discuss key lessons learned and their applicability in the Filipino context, and to facilitate action planning of next steps. 


The exchange increased participant knowledge and skills, particularly in policy development, by

  • Increasing capacity to develop a National Informal Settlements Upgrading Strategy to guide the Philippines in addressing shelter and housing provisions for the urban poor. Also, by improving the operational efficiency of the national program for informal settler families in danger areas such as those susceptible to floods and other natural disasters.
  • Raising awareness on the importance of coordination among national agencies, resulting in improved interagency coordination at the national level, and in the design of a new housing approach for the country.
  • Raising awareness of the important role of subsidy and other incentive programs, leading to the development of a Filipino incentive and subsidy framework that is expected to engage the private sector in the low-income housing market, and enable in-city relocation of those living in danger areas in Metro Manila.
  • Enhancing networks among stakeholders in the Philippines. After the exchange, the participants were able to engage more stakeholders, including key shelter agencies, which are now more closely coordinating their programs and initiatives within a national framework.

Lessons Learned

  • When funds are limited, it may be difficult to include high-level, middle-level, and technical staff on exchange programs. However, it is important to include multiple levels to better facilitate knowledge transfer at all levels.
  • Even when it is difficult to replicate exact approaches observed during a knowledge exchange, key observable principles and policies still provide valuable insights that can support policy development and program implementation in the knowledge-receiving country.
  • Partnerships can, and should be, scaled up through capacity-building of various stakeholders, which can result in long-term experience sharing.

World Bank Group Contribution

The exchange was financed by the South-South Knowledge Exchange Facility. In addition, a World Bank team also facilitated the post-exchange peer-to-peer sharing and roundtable activities that helped to put the knowledge gained from the study visit into a practical, usable context for the Filipino participants.


Providing knowledge during this exchange were representatives of the following Brazilian agencies and NGOs:

  • Ministry of Planning, Budget, and Management (Ministério de Planejamento, Orçamento e Gestão)
  • Ministry of Cities (Ministério das Cidades, or MCidades)
  • Ministry of Finance (Ministério da Fazenda)
  • Municipality of Sao Paulo
  • CAIXA Econômica Federal
  • CURY
  • Slum Dwellers International

“The study visit to Brazil was an eye opener for most of the participants. The strong political commitment of the Brazilian Government, the substantial investment made in the sector, and the participatory process leading towards the formulation and adjustment of key policies and programs have been a source of inspiration for the Philippine delegation.” – Program report

Moving Forward

Lessons gained from the exchange have already led to the successful development of the National Informal Settlements Upgrading Strategy, and have contributed to the design of the subsidy scheme for the Php 50 billion shelter program for informal settlement families living in danger areas. This is expected to have positive impacts on socializing the importance of housing reform for the overall Filipino economic and social development agenda. Brazilian counterparts that met with the Filipino representatives, and particularly CAIXA Econômica Federal, were keen to formulate longer term technical support to the Philippines on its housing reform and redevelopment agenda.


From the Philippines, the following institutions were represented:

  • Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC)
  • Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
  • National Housing Authority (NHA)
  • Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC)
  • Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG)

“The Knowledge Exchange has provided concrete examples and best practices as well as ground validation of the impact of having an effective strategy for informal settlements upgrading. The Brazil experience proved useful and contributory to determining approaches and possible directions relative to coming up with the Philippine strategy for national Informal settlement upgrading.” – Participant