Housing in Philippines

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The Philippines is a beautiful country until we talk about living conditions and government. One of the poorest countries in the world, ruled by one of the most corrupted governments in the world. Corruption and geography isolation keep foreign investment away, good paying jobs are hard to be found, so about 10% of country population is working overseas. Philippines have one of the highest income inequality of the world. They built an impressive business district in Makati City (header photo) and Fort Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, while half of population lives in poverty (less than $1.25 per day).

Incidentally, Philippines is the country which provide most customers for my architecture design services, this since before writing anything specially about Philippines on my website. Probably due to large population, booming economy, lack of public housing programmes and too few large-scale private housing developments, many people need to build houses themselves, browsing the internet for floor plans and contacting me for custom house design.

(personally I considered Philippines a better country than it actually is, until local people who contacted me for house projects, also informed me about living conditions)

General review of housing

Philippines have beautiful architecture, there are a lot of beautiful, over-decorated houses, but this architecture style mask the fact that the they have one of the smallest houses in the world.

Filipinos are also one of the shortest people in the world, but I still see their homes ridiculously small. Bedroom around 6-7 sqm, making 3 bedroom houses to be about 50 sqm, size comparable with Hong Kong apartments despite of much larger country, even more ridiculously, in Hong Kong most apartments are 2-3 bedrooms while in Philippines most apartments are studios or 1 bedroom. In subdivisions built by major real estate developers, houses are usually 2-3 bedrooms.

If this was not worse enough, there are many people living in informal settlers (aka slums, squatters), of the rest who have legal land titles, many built houses that still looks like slums. In downtown Manila every unused piece of land gets built up occupied by informal settlers, river beds are also heavily built, people living above highly polluted water and in danger of flooding. Even the 8-meter wide land between railways and nearby streets is the home for numerous poor families (cannot imagine how you can sleep as the trains horn continuously).

Government is trying to clear the slums from Philippines National Railway land and from danger areas such as river beds, and move them into socialized housing built at city outskirts, but people do not want to live there and move back to slums, which are conveniently located near workplace and amenities. There are too many illegal houses for the government to take care about them.

What I do not understand yet, is why in smaller cities and countryside, where the land is cheap, people own large plots but still build extremely small houses. Living in tight rooms is part of Philippines culture?

Beautiful houses from Eastwood Greenview subdivision – Slums of the poor built on Philippines National Railway

Philippines population has grown from 60 million people at 1990 census to 92 millions at 2010 census, and hit 100 millions in 2014 despite of massive emigration. Additionally, at least 12 millions filipinos are working overseas, primarily in United States and Middle East., according Wikipedia. Seems that is impossible to get a well paid job in this country.

In Metro Manila lots are over-subdivided by successive family generations and nowadays there are entire families squishing on lots small as 20 sqm.
Gated communities (called subdivisions) are being built by private developers at city outskirts, with large open spaces, pool and guards.
The fastest developing cities are Dasmariñas, Bacoor and Inus (30 km south from downtown Manila, within Cavite province), here are the most subdivisions and most beautiful architecture, less slums and more wealthy people.

Makati’s Forbes Park (average home price 5 million USD) vs the typical houses at few kilometers away
Salcedo Village Forbes Park Forbes Park and Makati skyline
Manila slums on river Happyland, Manila Slums on Philippines National Railway
Pasay City slums Village houses on water Manila aerial view

Housing types

Subdivisions (aka Housing Complexes in other countries) became more common after year 2000.
There are rowhouses on plots small as 3.5 meters wide and 10 meters deep, with 24 meters between street axes, reaching densities of about 200 housing units per hectare, probably the densest housing development in the world (example: Ximena Mabalacat – floor plan).

Single detached = house surrounded by courtyard on all 4 sides, houses built at minimum 3 meters apart (1.5m setback for both houses).

Single attached = a definition that do not exists in any other country, with 1 or 2 firewalls (walls built at 0-lot boundary), built with same orientation so everyone is having windows facing to neighbor’s blank wall at 1.5m apart, giving the advantage of detached houses without shared walls. Sometimes the carport roof is attaching houses. They are VERY UGLY because on one side the roof is overhanging 700mm and on other side there is a blank wall that extend above roof.

Duplex = semi-detached, 2 houses symmetrical.

Rowhouse = synonym with british Terraced house or american Townhouse.

Bungalow = single-storey house, similar with American meaning. Unlike the rest of Asia where bungalow means a detached house regardless of number of floors.

Most common housing typologies in these subdivisions:
40 sqm 3-bedroom back-to-back terraces on 5×8 m land (example: Cedar Residences – floor plan – I wonder how you can reach house door after parking, carport is 2.5 m wide and an average car 1.8 m wide will block the door).
50 sqm 2-bedroom terraces on 4×10 m land, (example Portville Mactan)
The subdivisions offer also bigger houses with 3 and 4 bedrooms but very few of them are over 100 sqm.

Prices of the 2-bedroom 40-50 sqm terraced bare houses vary from about 1 million (22,000 USD) in Cavite to 3 million in Metro Manila. 3-4 bedroom 100 sqm detached finished houses are 3 million to 10 million.

These houses are 4 meter wide and 7 meters deep, about 50 square meters
St. Dominic Subdivision in Basak Mactan La Aldea Buena Homes, Mactan Timog Park Homes, Angeles City

In urban areas (non-subdivisions), according my study from satellite photos, most lots are within 4-10m wide and 10-16m long. Land sizes vary from 40 sqm (minimum by law) to 120 sqm, very few lots are more than 120 sqm of land in urban areas. 80-120 sqm looks being average lot size. However, some people asked me for architecture help for 20 sqm house plans, so smaller lots than minimum by law does exist!

Philippines building code regulate habitable rooms at minimum 6 sqm and 2 meters wide, most houses are built at these minimum values, but some violate the law! Examples: Pioneer Woodlands bedrooms are less than 2m wide, Angelesfloorplan 25.5 sqm 2-bedroom home, bedrooms should be 1.9 x 2.4m internally.

For comparison, a nearby country Malaysia building code says 6.5 sqm bedroom and 9.3 sqm master bedroom, but these sizes can be rarely seen and only in public housing. I have never seen a developer in Malaysia building anywhere closer to minimum requirements, they build usually 10-15 sqm common bedrooms and 15-25 sqm master bedroom.

House setback are 1.5m in front and sides, and 2m at rear. I have not found a clear regulation about carport roofs and balconies within setbacks.

Ceiling height should be minimum 2.4 m, and 2.7 m for first floor, but in most houses, all floors are 2.4 m.

Bad house design: as seen in floor plans provided by developers, living room is so small that you cannot place a sofa, TV and dining table in same time, or dining chairs once pushed out, block the way between kitchen and bedrooms.

Kitchen stuff (sink, stove, fridge, cabinets) are together only 2 meters long. Some low-cost houses do not even have kitchen inside, sink being placed outdoor (so you are bitten by mosquito while washing dishes?).

Carports are often designed 2.5m wide, minimum by law, the floor plans illustrate cars but insufficient space to open car door (so how you can get out of car?), or the car is blocking the way to house main door. No wonder why we see many people parking on roadside. Normally 2.5m should be the width of lots in open carparks, garages or any parking space between walls should be 3 meters minimum width, since today cars average 1.8 m width, is better to have 90 cm space on driver side and 30 cm on other side.

I need opinion from local people. I understand that a large part of population is poor so low-cost housing is needed, but are these houses big enough for people needs? Or people will extend it over courtyard and destroy the urban landscape, like in Mexico?

Good website: www.pinoyrealty.com, few dozens house models, all with floor plans shown on site.


According http://hlurb.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/services/developer/rule1.pdf, the minimum lot areas and is rowhose 50 / 4m, duplex 80/attached sqm / 8 m, detached 100 sqm / 10/12 m (medium housing).
According http://hlurb.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/services/developer/rule1n2.pdf, the minimum lot areas and frontages are: rowhouse 32 sqm / 4 m, duplex/attached 48 sqm / 6 m, detached 64 sqm / 8 m (economic / socialized housing).
According http://hlurb.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/laws-issuances/board-resolutions/BR_824.pdf, the minimum lot areas and frontages are: rowhouse 36/28 sqm / 4/3.5m, duplex/attached 54/48 sqm / 6 m, detached 72/64 sqm / 8 m (economic / socialized housing).
Which is the truth??

http://grem.ph/realty-resources05.php specify different laws, setbacks 3 m at front, 2 m at back, 1 m at sides.

different laws again

More strange examples found during my study

Wallnut Grove, 22 sqm 1-bedroom house, 4m wide and 5.5m deep (smallest house ever?)
Gran Seville, 36 sqm single-floor 2-bedroom house.
Greeensbolough Dasmarinas, 40 sqm 3-bedroom house

M Place, block with apartments from 16 sqm studio to 40 sqm 2-bedroom
Cambridge Village, Condo with 2-bedroom apartments small as 30 sqm.
The Stratford Residences, 68-storey condo dominated by studio and 1-bedroom apartments. 3-bedroom apartments are only few on top 8 floors.

Note that all these horrible tiny houses are examples of LEGAL buildings, designed by architects and build with permit from government. Imagine that the slums are even worse!

Can’t find an empty plot of land? No problem, build OVER ROAD!
Bambang Barangay Hall build over road


Manila Light Rail was the first metro system in South Asia, opened 1984 and reached 51 km of lines after 3rd line opened 2004.

There are also modern buses, but most common means of transportation is the Jeepney, originally US Military vehicles which (few hundreds vehicles) were sold to locals when troops retired at end of World War II, locals converted them in buses by extending their wheelbases and installing roofs, and over-decorated, calling them Jeepney. Nowadays most Jeepneys are made 100% locally, resembling the shape of American Jeep but made 6-7 meters long, others are based on second-hand Japanese SUVs and trucks, still called Jeepneys despite being unrelated with American Jeep). About 50.000 Jeepneys are driving around Manila (according BBC).

These vehicles are over-decorated with various texts, religious messages and other bullshit, but not with their route (so how people know to pick the right one!?). They follow chaotic routes and stop anywhere even in middle of road, putting passengers in danger. In rural areas is common to see Jeepneys overcrowded with people sitting on their roofs, despite that it is an illegal practice (example video).

Old jeepney from 1950s Jeepney vs bus Jeepney overcrowded and overly-decorated

Another form of transportation unique in Philippines are Owner Type Jeep, hand-made vehicles resembling the US Jeep but in miniature, less than 3 meters long, most lacking seatbelts, windshield wipers, or other features standard for western cars since 1960s. Does anyone know what engine they have?

Philippines also have tricycles, common also in other South Asian countries, made from bicycles and motorcycles with a bench attached supported by a 3rd wheel, and roof. Some are even used as taxis. When you see a car, it looks giant compared to traditional vehicles!

Owner Type Jeep Trycicle waiting area


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  1. I must say you have very interesting posts here. Your
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    • JayMena on February 18, 2017 at 6:24 pm
    • Reply


    Good Day!

    Can you draft a floor plan for 240sqm of land?L=24m x W=10m.Possibly 2 floors?

    We are a family of 5 (Me,my wife and our 3 sons.) Soon we are planning to build our house,and we want to make the most of our piece of land.

    BTW, is it possible to have some space allocated for garden,landscaping,garage and dirty kitchen(backside)?

    Thanks in advance.


    1. Your land is quite big!
      How many rooms do you need? Do you want a detached house 7 meters wide with courtyard on all 4 sides, or a 10 meters wide house with firewalls and space only at front and back?
      Do you need a sketchy floor plan for ideas or also detailed floor plan, elevations, sections, 3D design, etc, for contractors?

        • JayMena on February 19, 2017 at 6:51 pm
        • Reply


        I did not expect that you’ll give a feedback so soon:)

        Actually just to correct my previous post the dimension of my property is 24m horizontal (facing the road) and 10m vertical.We preferred a detached house design,with 5 BR.

        Although i dont have much experience regarding design & construction,still i want to get involve in some aspect,so for now what i need is an intial sketch of the lay-out of the house including the amount of space that can be utilize for open space,since i want the kids to enjoy the outdoor as much as possible.

        Also can we discuss via email so i can give you further details if possible?


        1. Someway I hate lots that are only 10 meters depth. instead of parking in front of house you need to park in side. House can be just 7 meters depth, or can you make firewall at back side?
          Such lot with large frontage is more suitable for rowhouses, you can build 6 houses of 2-bedroom each and rent them! And for your family find another lot narrower and deeper so you can have private courtyard at back.

          I replied at your email and haven’t heard any reply from you. Can you visit website from a computer and use live chat in lower-left corner of screen?

    • Roldan on February 26, 2017 at 6:51 pm
    • Reply

    I would just like to ask if it is possible to build a 3 bedroom in a 100 sq floor plan. (Land area is 126 sq. 9meter width 14 length)

    Rooms will be aligned vertically in one side of the house. Would that be possible.???thank you

    1. Probably possible. 1 or 2 floors? detached house or attached (with firewalls)?
      Can you use LIVE CHAT in lower-left corner of screen so we can discuss your project in details?

  2. Hi Teoalida,

    Great posts! Thanks.

    Can you also make a design for 130 square meters for 4 door apartment? First and 2nd flr. This is for future plan and investment.


    jim lachica

    1. Probably yes. 2 apartments per floor, right? How many rooms per apartment? Give me exact length and width of the 130 sqm land.
      Can you use LIVE CHAT in lower-left corner of screen so we can discuss your project in details?

        • Mari Juliet and David Bobryk on November 7, 2017 at 1:20 am
        • Reply

        Sir, my family and I are looking at a 533 square meters beach front lot here in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. We would like to build a 3 bedroom house on the property. Could you be kind enough to give us some basic ideas on a house design for this property.
        Mabuhay, Salamat po

        1. Why do you leave comment as reply to another person that you’re not related with?

          Same question for you: give me exact length and width of the 533 sqm land? Single floor or 2 floor? if you want just basic ideas, look in http://www.teoalida.com/design/houseplans/ and if you want a custom floor plan I will make one for you!

    • Joaquin on April 10, 2017 at 4:32 am
    • Reply

    Hi Teoalida,

    I want to build a small house in a 20 x 20 meters land. However, the house will be around 48 sqm (8 meters front x 6 meters depth) two floors.
    Only 2 bedrooms upstairs, living/dining room and kitchen downstairs.
    Small balconies for one or both bedrooms will look nice, if possible. The house will be located in a corner because the rest of the space will be destined for other things and that’s the reason for its dimensions.

    I do not pretend to take your time making a new design for me. So, if you have something similar to what I imagine it would be very useful. I do not have the creativity you have but some idea or sample design would be a good start for me.

    Best regards,


    1. So you don’t want to design a new house for you? A ready-made drawing is enough??
      http://www.teoalida.com/design/Detached-House-55-80sqm.png with carport
      http://www.teoalida.com/design/House-Tiny-floorplan.png an old design from 2010, I can redesign it with better layout for lower floor and color rooms.
      But if your lot is 20x20m your house will be built at front or at rear corner? How about a 3x20m house like http://www.teoalida.com/design/High-Density-Terraced-floorplan.png ?

        • Joaquin on April 10, 2017 at 9:42 am
        • Reply

        Hi Teoalida

        Yes, a ready-made drawing is ok, I think.
        The house-Tiny-floorplan looks pretty good to me. I think I can adapt it to my needs.

        The house will be located at a rear corner next to an aquaponics garden that they are building now.
        We want to use Interlocking Compressed Earth Blocks (ICEBs) to build this small house and the dimensions in your drawing are great for it.

        Thank you very much.

    • Kate on April 14, 2017 at 9:01 am
    • Reply

    Hello there, got bumped in your site while searching for a typical wall ceiling in ph. Do you sketch mezzanine floors? Is it possible for a 10.33ft height? House dim is 6x7m. Thanks in advance

    1. Your land is very small, how many rooms do you need?
      Can you use LIVE CHAT in lower-left corner of screen so we can discuss your project in details?

    • jhun cayetano on April 30, 2017 at 6:48 am
    • Reply

    I have a two storey house built in 4 meters frontage. my lot area is 80 sqm (4 m (frontage) x 20 m (depth). i want to renovate it so that I should have a parking garage. Pls. any recommendation for the design. Thank you sir.

    1. Can you use LIVE CHAT in lower-left corner of screen so we can discuss your project in details?
      How many rooms do you need? I can design your house, it may be similar with http://www.teoalida.com/design/Terraced-House-13x50ft.png

    • Len Vicente on June 21, 2017 at 6:42 am
    • Reply

    Can you make me a house plan for my 127sqm lot. I want a 1.5 story with loft. High living room ceiling. Loft’s ceiling is low. Sunken kitchen/dining with the master’s br on the first floor. No garage pls. Thanks

    1. Always provide dimensions of 127 sqm lot and how many rooms do you need?
      Can you use LIVE CHAT in lower-left corner of screen so we can discuss your project in details?

        • Len Vicente on July 8, 2017 at 12:46 am
        • Reply

        Frontage is 10 meters and 12.7 from front to back. Master’s br on the ground floor and one bedroom at the loft.

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    • Jen on November 25, 2017 at 2:38 am
    • Reply

    Good day, Teolida!

    Love your posts.

    Will you be able to a draft a design and estimate the cost for a 160 square meter lot for a 4-door apartment? Currently, there’s a house built on the lot.

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Average construction cost in Philippines is 400 USD per square meter, but probably in your case will be lower due to shared walls.
      If you specify exact land dimensions I can make a draft sketch. Do you want 2 floors and 2 flats per floor, like http://www.teoalida.com/design/Apartment-Block-7x12m.png ?

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