When the Victoria De Malate high-rise topped off in Manila last March, there was much more going on beyond the completion of another skyscraper.
Located in the heart of the bustling metropolis, Victoria De Malate is the flagship project of New San Jose Builders, a Quadruple A-rated construction and real estate company and one of the country’s industry leaders.
Driven by a dedication to reduce the extreme housing backlog that plagues the Philippines, New San Jose Builders Executive Vice President and COO Leo Barrosa says the company works closely with the Philippines government in that regard.
“We’re in construction and real estate development at the same time,” he says. “So we have vacant land all over the country, which we offer the government for co-development of housing.”
The queue for housing is around six million, so we want to help solve that problem and we have the means to do it.
Connecting people and housing
New San Jose’s government associations run deep. Its Founder and former Chairman, Jose Rizalino L Acuzar, is currently the Secretary of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development in the Philippines.
Fast forward to today, and the company is firmly on board with the government’s Pambansang Pabahay Para Sa Pilipino Housing Program (4PH), which aims to address the country’s six million-plus housing backlog by building one million houses per year for the next six years.
“Mr Acuzar actually coined that program,” Barrosa says. “The queue for housing is around six million, so we want to help solve that problem and we have the means to do it.”
When Barrosa joined the firm in 2014, he’d just come from a 14-year stint at Ernst & Young Philippines.
“Mr Acuzar offered me the position of COO, which meant focusing on the adoption of the latest technology to become more effective and efficient in the way we work,” he says.
“In particular, I’ve partnered with fintech company GCash, so our buyers have a convenient way to pay their amortization. No need to come to the office or a bank, they can just do it over the phone.”
Barrosa was also asked to head two groups as part of his new role.
“I was put in charge of real estate and construction, which made it possible to streamline some of the company’s processes,” he says. “Rather than having to get approval from the head of construction and then the head of real estate, they could come to me for both, thereby making it faster and easier for our buyers.”
New San Jose’s five-year plan includes participating in the government’s 4PH program by releasing land for government housing projects and then participating in the construction. In the long term, however, New San Jose is in the business of building cities.
“Basically, we want to help decongest the Philippines,” he says. “We’re contemplating replicating the Bonifacio Global City of Metro Manila in the north and the south of the country.”
One of the secrets to New San Jose’s success is the fact that it’s a vertically and horizontally integrated company that keeps much of its resources in-house.
We have our own precast, our own CHB plant, our own motorpool. We’re a complete construction company.
“We have our own precast, our own CHB plant, our own motorpool,” Barrosa says. “We’re a fully equipped construction company, moving with the times in adapting the latest construction technologies”
In recent times, New San Jose has veered toward projects that allow it to harness these advantages.
“Most prefab interior walls we use in our projects are manufactured by us,” he says. “We’re now also capable of doing prefab exterior walls. We’re continuously looking at the latest innovations in terms of how quickly we can finish a building.”
One upcoming development is the advent of prefab stairs.
“Instead of casting in place, we’re trying to deliver easily installed stairs. Just bring them on site and they’re ready to put in place,” he says.
There’s also a plan to centralize New San Jose’s metalworking operations.
“That way, all prefab metal work can be done in one location and delivered to different sites,” Barrosa says. “This way you lessen inventory costs and manpower allocated on a per site basis.”
Also helping New San Jose achieve its lofty ambitions is the company’s close relationship with the banks.
We have several banks we work with, and they were able to help us bear the burden brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have several banks we work with, and they were able to help us bear the burden brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says.
“It helped us weather the effects of the pandemic. Managing finances is what crippled many companies at that time, and our bank relationships helped us avoid that.”
And so it is that New San Jose exists today to help realize its Founder’s vision.
“He wanted us to help each and every Filipino have a home,” Barrosa says. “We’re not here simply for profits, we’re here to meet that aim.”