One of the main pledges of the DNT government is to provide affordable housing for all, and in urban areas it is not just to have affordable homes to live in but also have the opportunity of owning a home.
It had promised to build 2,500 flats for home ownership across the country, subsidized interest loan scheme for low income groups, remove existing rule limiting houses beyond two storeys in rural areas, identify adequate space and areas for low and middle income housing and build more Changjiji-like (Thimphu) projects.
However, all of this threatens to go up in smoke as the pandemic period has seen a huge surge in land prices in all major thromdes and especially Thimphu and Phuentsholing.
This is combined with most constructions coming to a freeze due to limited labour.
The combination of escalating land prices and in adequate supply of housing could result in soaring rents after the pandemic period and make home ownership a distant dream for most thromde residents.
When The Bhutanese put this question to the Minister for Works and Human Settlement Dorji Tshering he said for affordable housing there are many factors and as the pandemic has made it more difficult to provide affordable housing they have come up with new policies and have recognized new factors.
He said common issues are land prices going up and making it unaffordable, on the other hand is finance and the cost of construction materials. He said these three parameters are some of the most important to bring down rents.
Lyonpo said that in discussions with his experts in many workshops and as he speaks a task force is meeting in Dorji Elements hotel on bringing down the cost of a house via the mode of construction. He said every individual builds a house with their own scaffolding, concrete mixer etc which is mostly dumped at the end of the construction and this is cost added to the building.
Lyonpo said that this cost can be reduced as they coming up with a program where builders construct 20 to 30 buildings together and share the same concrete mixers, scaffolding etc.
He said the NHDCL is also committed on the 2,500 units and they have been given the mandate.
Lyonpo said that by the end of the year they will come up with solutions on affordable housing not only through land and loan but also through the mode of construction.
On the progress for the 2,500 units to be built the minister said that the government already has USD 30 mn. This translates to around 2.238 bn.
The Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering said even after the government builds the 2,500 units the issue of housing will not go away as they will have to look into rural-urban migration and to address and prevent that that they have come up with a human settlement policy and spatial development plan on how a village and community is to be developed based on GNH principles and modern technology.
Lyonchhen said that there may also be an Act on this and he complimented the MoWHS minister and his team on this front.
He said there is a taskforce under the MoWHS to look into the efficiency of the construction industry with technology, material, manpower etc.
Lyonchhen said that the biggest sector of the economy which is construction has been effectively frozen due to lack of labourers. He said the main worry of His Majesty The King is that if youth are to go into construction then they should have good skills that others do not have.
The Prime Minister said that a major chunk of the housing projects will come under the Labour Ministry which will use it for mass skilling. Lyonchhen said this will immediately add onto the efficiency of the construction industry.