The housing crunch
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.