The hous­ing crunch

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

Over the past cou­ple of years, there has been sig­nif­i­cant ur­ban growth ex­ert­ing pres­sures on the lim­ited ur­ban in­fra­struc­ture ser­vices and par­tic­u­larly the hous­ing stock. De­mand for hous­ing far ex­ceeded the sup­ply. This, as a mat­ter of fact, re­flects that the ur­ban is­sues are as­sum­ing greater scale and di­men­sions.

Hous­ing short­ages for all in­come groups, par­tic­u­larly the mid­dle and low - in­come groups has now be­come a crit­i­cal is­sue in all the fast grow­ing cities of Bhutan, es­pe­cially Thim­phu and Phuentshol­ing.

Most of the ex­ist­ing hous­ing stocks were not in good con­di­tion as the con­cept of main­te­nance is rather poor and the land­lords do not want to in­vest in the main­te­nance as they know the ten­ants have no other al­ter­na­tives. The land­lords un­der the present sit­u­a­tion of hous­ing short­age and lack of rent con­trol leg­is­la­tion are en­joy­ing such ad­van­tage.

There are an es­ti­mated 3,000 Bhutanese cur­rently liv­ing in Jaigaon be­cause there are not enough apart­ments avail­able in Phuentshol­ing, and the very few avail­able are too ex­pen­sive.

Most of those liv­ing across the bor­der are from the lower- in­come brack­ets.

It is hoped that the hous­ing units planned are ex­clu­sively for th­ese groups. What is im­por­tant is that the rents for th­ese hous­ing units are also kept af­ford­able.

It is also equally im­por­tant that a full proof sys­tem is de­vel­oped to en­sure only those who gen­uinely need the apart­ments are able to ac­quire them.

While the gov­ern­ment has stepped in to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion, there is an op­por­tu­nity for the pri­vate sec­tor to meet this de­mand as well.

Work­ing to­gether and en­cour­ag­ing the pri­vate sec­tor by pro­vid­ing as many in­cen­tives as pos­si­ble so that con­struct­ing hous­ing for the lower- in­come groups is eco­nom­i­cally vi­able and an at­trac­tive busi­ness plan must also be pur­sued.

We are aware ef­forts have been made but whether enough has been done to con­vince the pri­vate sec­tor re­mains a ques­tion.

In the long run, sup­ply­ing more hous­ing is a stop­gap so­lu­tion.

We are con­verg­ing on our ma­jor ur­ban cities like Thim­phu and Phuentshol­ing be­cause the ma­jor busi­nesses and in­dus­tries are lo­cated within their prox­im­i­ties.

One so­lu­tion is to spread out our in­dus­trial es­tates and busi­nesses. The es­tab­lish­ment of an in­dus­trial es­tate in Sarpang is a move in this di­rec­tion.

Per­haps pro­vid­ing in­cen­tives and other kinds of sup­port to busi­nesses and in­dus­tries that seek to set up away from the ur­ban cen­tres is a pos­si­ble so­lu­tion worth con­sid­er­ing. This is what is al­ready hap­pen­ing with some en­trepreneur­ship fund­ing projects. Busi­nesses that choose to op­er­ate out­side Thim­phu are given more pri­or­ity for fund­ing and other kinds of sup­port.

But in the mean time, pro­vi­sion of af­ford­able hous­ing units in Phuentshol­ing and Thim­phu is the only so­lu­tion.

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