A large number of people looking for rental apartments within Thimphu and Phuentsholing Thromde can be seen flooded on Facebook and other social media platforms these days, and although in most cases even if there are flats available people stated that the rents are too high.
With around 114,551 people in the Thimphu thromde alone as per 2017 PHCB report residing in 25,408 households, the capital city holds one of the largest populations in any Dzongkhag.
As for the Phuentsholing thromde, the 2017 PHCB report had identified 27,658 people living within the thromde premise spread across 6,817 households.
In the span of last 3 years, the figures would have gone up and with the COVID-19 outbreak, returnees from abroad it would certainly add up another few thousand people spread across the country.
In social media posts in public groups like ‘Rent a house in Thimphu’, ‘Rent a house in Phuentsholing’ people have been pouring in for rental apartment availability and even though there are houses available, they stated that it gets booked within the time span of about 10 to 20 minutes with not less than 5 to 20 people trying to get the same rental place.
Kuenzang Choden, 23, currently working temporarily in Jimena said that she has been looking for a suitable rental place for about 3 years within Thimphu and has had no luck finding rents she could afford. She said that it would not be ideal to find a place which is 70 % of her basic salary, and that she worries in the future it would be even tougher for other people like herself to have a proper livelihood.
Another resident of Thimphu, Khandum, said that she and her family have spent around 5 months looking for rental apartments suitable to their earning.
Tandin, a resident living at the heart of Thimphu near the MKTS building said that in 2010 3BHK space at where 8/11 store is currently located was rented out for Nu 6,500, whereas today the same space may cost easily above Nu 15,000.
He said that people working in the private sector hardly earn enough to buy clothes or save up for other household items to make a proper living in the current times.
As for the Phuentsholing thromde, the situation seems even harsher with people claiming that finding rental homes were already very tough even before the COVID-19 situation but now the complete influx of Bhutanese from Jaigaon would add up greatly to the housing shortages. The biggest problems stated by most employed people staying in rental homes in urban areas is the deficit in expenditure ratio for the cost of living as compared to their living standards.
According to the 2019 Labor Force Survey (LFS) report conducted by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB), the Employment by Population Ratio for males in urban area is 72.7 % which consists of 54,908 employed males out of 75,481 males categorized under the working age population.
As for females in the urban area, the employment to population ratio is comparatively lower with just 45.9%, which consists of 37,788 employed females out of 82,351 females classified as the working age population.
The mean monthly income for people residing within Thimphu dzongkhag is calculated as Nu 23,011. These figures consist of both male and female employed within the urban as well as the rural expanse of Thimphu.
As for Chukha dzongkhag the mean monthly income is calculated to be between Nu 20,000 and Nu 25,000.
Passang, one of the residents who had previously been living in Jaigoan said that people have to come from as far as from Pasakha every day to go to their offices due to lack of housing in the main town area. He said that with more people now having to be adjusted within Phuentsholing, he thinks that the rents will be even higher in times to come.
He said, “I have a few nephews who are staying with friends and I think if this trend continues with other youth as well, it will certainly hamper the quality of life for our youths as they do not have proper living conditions and in the influence of friends or themselves they might be carefree and may not take life seriously.”
Other tenants said that the problem with rent is largely due to the demand for houses and that sometimes the landlords or those who are helping someone find rents are being offered commissions which would make them the more favorable options for getting houses. Few of them said that this is unfair to those who already have to manage money just to pay house advances and security deposits let alone pay an extra fee of Nu 1,000 to Nu 3,000 just to have someone look for a house as commissions.
The Phuentsholing thrompon, Uttar Kumar Rai said “When it comes to the current situation there is definitely a housing crunch and even if the government wanted to, we cannot construct at such a short notice. Another problem at the Phuentsholing thromde is that, there is not much government land and those that was there previously had already been allocated to the National Housing and Development Corporation Limited (NHDCL).”
He added that in terms of rent, people have to really look at the ground reality of housing about whether the building owners were charging high or not.
He added, “Firstly, in Bhutan the construction cost is really high, secondly the loan interest rate is quite high and thirdly the recovery period for loan is very short, and most people who construct buildings have tough time recovering the loan amount, and additionally they have to pay the EMI from their own pockets in most cases due to the construction cost.”
“Yes, from tenants’ side also there will naturally be grievances but since thromde also knows the back story for the building owners and how their building will not generate immediate profit but only be an asset for the future, therefore perhaps if the government really wants to accommodate all the people within the thromde, private players would have a big job to do in terms of that and perhaps the government could strategize or incentivize to encourage that.” he added.
He said that the government intervening for rent would not be ideal as the private owners have full right to their assets and on top of that they pay taxes.
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