Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Great Leap Upward

SM Sea Residences in Pasay City
Walking along the brightly-lit alleys of SM Mall of Asia with my girlfriend, I noticed the construction going on in the other side of the street -- the SEA Residences. It is a really big real estate property composed of three huge buildings, each around 12 to 15 stories I guess. Because of its size, I found myself asking, where will SM get the tenants for this huge property?

I asked my girlfriend if she wants to live in a condominium. She said that she wanted a house and lot better since you can have it remodeled and hand it down to you descendants. We started discussing about how we plan to raise money to buy our future house, either we really save up for it or we get a housing loan from Pag-Ibig or SSS. It is from this incident last night that I decided to write an article about land and its value to us Filipinos.

Land is a important commodity for us Filipinos since pre-Spanish times. Land is the source of livelihood, the arena of lifelong experience, the status symbol. Even through more 300 years of colonial rule, this notion about land did not change. The Spanish also shared the same value we had for land and even took it away from us. The kings and queens of Spain divided it and gave it out to their henchmen like pancakes. It is for this same acts that we have haciendas owned by the most affluent families in various provinces in the country.

And even in present times, land is still a valuable commodity. Instead of living in government-built tenements, the poor masses of this country would prefer to squat in living spaces not theirs. And if they will not be relocated in far-flung tracts of land which they can consider their own, they will defend their squatting by hook or by crook.

But this notion of land will have to change sooner or later.

A typical housing project in Cavite.
With population booming and the environment becoming more degraded in this country, I am positively sure that there will come a time that government will put a limit in the conversion of agricultural and forest lands for private and mixed use. In a country where the government objective is to feed its people and preserve its resources, creating new tracts of land will not be a logical option. Thus, the government and real estate corporations will have to maximize what ever available space there is to provide housing, business and recreational space for its citizens. And getting large is no longer an option. The only place to go is up.

Other countries have started following this trend. Around the world, there is a construction boom in condominiums and other high-rise residences. In cities like Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, Beirut, Sao Paolo, Jerusalem and in almost all cities in China, new buildings are coming out like asparagus sprouts. The government of these countries have realized the value of space more than anything else and have decided to make a great leap upward rather than forward. 

It will not be a challenge for government to adapt this new way of looking at land. The challenge will lie on how the government can convince its people to adjust to a great leap upward. People will have to go for condominiums and apartments instead of house and lots. Real estate corporations will have to be really creative in providing potential residents with all the comforts of home and ease of access to services. What SM Prime Holdings is doing right now is just that, constructing posh and comfy homes just steps from the people's favorite retail place. SM is no longer just a mall, it is a landmark, a recreation and a home rolled into one.

The great leap upward in this country is almost at hand. Where will you be when that happens?

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