House owners can’t find tenants; those looking for housing find rent expensive

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Phuentsholing town, the busiest business hub, is suddenly seeing a lot of available business spaces and an ease in the housing crunch.

With repeated and prolonged lockdowns, especially the last one, many people have left Phuentsholing. House owners in Phuentsholing are finding it difficult to get tenants.

A businessman who left Phuentsholing during the last lockdown, Ugyen Phuntshok, has three apartments, each with three bedrooms, empty in his building at Kabreytar.

“I have been advertising since July,” he said.

Ugyen, who is in Paro these days, has even reduced the rent to Nu 11,500 per month for his apartments, from the initial rent of Nu 13,000. Several people have called, but the flats have not been taken.

Another house owner who relocated, Deki, has a three-bedroom flat empty for a month.

“The situation was not like this before. People would book immediately after we posted the empty space in the social media forums,” she said.

Deki said the shortage of tenants is because Phuentsholing has fewer people now, due to the pandemic. However, she also said that the problem is mostly with three-bedroom flats.

“People are looking for parking and a good water supply, which many houses do not have. Although I have them both, people haven’t rented my apartment,” she said.

A manager of a building, Anuka Pradhan, has advertised a three-bedroom flat on social media. It has been about four to five days, she said.

“I don’t know if it’s because people have left. In my case, the tenant is leaving by the end of October. Some people are coming to see the house tomorrow,” she said.

However, Anuka also said only civil servants and corporate employees are present in Phuentsholing these days.

As of today, more than 8,000 people have left Phuentsholing since the lockdown started in mid-April this year, official records show. The figure, however, includes people who were stuck in Phuentsholing during the lockdown and those who left temporarily for official purposes and other reasons. Many have returned.


A mismatch?

Meanwhile, there are people who are hunting for apartments and shop spaces. However, they are expecting a decrease in rent, and many say a mismatch between actual rents and their expectation is causing the problem. Many also say that although the number of people looking for houses may have decreased, rents have not.

Three-bedroom apartments range from Nu 13,000 to Nu 15,000 per month, depending on the location and other facilities. Two-bedroom flats range from Nu 9,000 to Nu 10,000 per month.

A shopkeeper, Binod Sunwar, said the house and space rents should be declining. “But it has not happened,” he said.

Binod, who is also a caretaker of a building where he stays, said the pandemic has affected everyone, including tenants and house owners. It may take time before the rents decrease, he added.

A micro-shop owner said she earns about Nu 800 to Nu 900 per day because there are fewer people in Phuentsholing these days.

“We expect our house owners to decrease rent because they don’t have to pay loans. However, the case is different,” she said.

Yeshey Needup, who has been in Phuentsholing for the last month, said he is staying with a friend and looking for a house.

“I am doing business so I will have to stay here,” he said.

“I have tried calling several people, but only expensive and bigger apartments are available. I am single and don’t need a big house, but it’s difficult to find one that suits my needs.”

A teacher, Namzang Dorji, came to Phuentsholing just a few days ago and has been looking for housing.

“I thought it would be easy to find one, but it’s not,” he said.

However, he is also looking for a house outside of the town and is expecting affordable rent.