Set priorities for affordable housing

Amongst many pressing and of course realistic pledges, the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) during the 2018 election made a pledge to provide affordable housing for all. The party further pledged to create policies for citizens to even own a decent house.

DNT won the elections and it has been reigning for more than two and a half year however nothing concrete, nor experimental, is being done to realize the cause.  

Bhutan known for Gross National Happiness (GNH), His Majesty the King places great importance on happiness of every citizen.

However, with the surging house rents paying 60-70 percent of their monthly income have affected the internal qualitative happiness of the people. Paying house rent has become a stress for majority of our tenants. Therefore, the government needs to set a priority for providing affordable housing.

To fulfill the aspiration of His Majesty the King and to improve the well-being of citizens, it is imperative to promote affordable housing as a national priority. Careful attention needs to be paid to create an enabling system that improves affordable housing opportunities in urban areas.

Rapid urbanization in Bhutan has led to a surge in the demand for affordable housing. The transition from a predominantly rural, family-centric life to urban, and the impacts of urbanization are becoming more visible with an increasing urban population. This has significant implications for the housing stock, thereby affecting the affordability of housing.

The gap between housing demand and supply is steadily widening. Though not affordable, people with the fear of not getting house sacrifice other expense paying disproportionate to their income. For instance, the housing shortage in Phuentsholing has compelled many Bhutanese to live across the border, in Jaigaon, India.  Hence, there is an urgent need to solve this social problem by creating a conducive environment for sustainable and equitable development of the housing sector in the country.

An affordable housing refers to housing units that are affordable by that section of society whose income is below the median household income. Though different countries have different definitions for affordable housing, but it is largely the same. Affordable housing should address the housing needs of the lower or middle income households.

Though we understand that the pandemic has made it difficult to provide affordable housing, the government cannot deviate from their plans.

The ministry of Work and Human settlement has come up with new policies and have recognized new factors like land prices going up, financial crisis and the cost of construction materials.

However, to enhance social security and economic stability through provision of affordable housing for all, the housing policy should be revised once and for all.