One of the main pledges of the DNT was to provide affordable housing, however, major urban places like Thimphu and Phuentsholing are seeing land prices climb to record levels and along with it rents and apartment prices.
In response to a question on the issue Lyonchhen said that the government cannot adopt a dictatorial attitude on this. He said there is housing demand in a few urban places due to a huge rural and urban migration and to solve the issue the government will encourage people to stay in the villages.
Lyonchhen said that the DNT is looking into the issue in all 20 Dzongkhags by coming out with housing standards based on the living standards. The PM said that once the houses are ready ownership is not simple as there are legal aspects.
He said the government would work with different agencies on house location and ownership and who should get ownership.
The PM said that the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement is looking into low cost housing. He also said that the tax reforms would look at revising property and inheritance taxes. He said that the government was looking at government bungalows sitting on 50 to 60 decimals of prime land and how buildings could be made there to house more people.
Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the housing crunch was being caused partly due to a lot of people building hotels or converting existing apartments into hotels.
He said that the private sector development committee had the RMA Governor and it would like think tank for the private sector which would look at where investments should be made.
Lyonchhen said that based on the market demand people might even convert back their hotels to apartments.
What DNT’s manifesto says on affordable housing
Its manifesto says that although there has been rapid growth in construction of commercial buildings in Thimphu, a majority are for higher income groups with houses rents soaring beyond affordability range of lower income groups.
It says it is crucial to have more homes like the Changjiji complex in Thimphu that target middle and low income groups.
The manifesto says that residents in other dzongkhags, such as Trashigang, Samdrupjongkhar and Dagana, also have housing problems.
The manifesto says that a majority of the urban residents have to spend more than half their income on house rents.
The manifesto says it will develop a comprehensive plan to provide adequate housing in urban areas.
The manifesto says DNT will identify all major urban areas, including Thimphu and invest and work closely with NHDCL to ensure adequate housing within the first three years of the government.
Suitable residential areas will be identified and local area plans developed along the border towns and cities facing housing crisis for the construction of buildings for residential purposes.
The manifesto promises to subsidize home interest rates for low income groups for a specified period.
It says, “Low interest rates will be given to individuals and families from low income groups, as well as, builders of low income residential housing. We will also improve mortgage terms to improve access to housing loans, particularly for low and middle income groups.”
The manifesto promises to introduce home ownership schemes for government and private sector employees.
It promises to build least 2,500 apartments or homes around the country for home ownership.
The manifesto aims to introduce a home ownership scheme that provides financial support and gives priority to first time house owners and for those from lower and middle income groups.
It would also introduce grants for low and middle income groups, whereby the public houses and flats will be sold at a discounted cost.
Due to limited suitable areas for construction in towns and cities, the mandatory rule imposed in most Dzongkhags limiting houses to two-storey will be lifted, says the manifesto.