Housing needs attention

Housing is at the heart of development all over the world. It is welcome news that the government is trying to address the housing problems of Phuentsholing through the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC).

Overall, the housing issue merits far greater attention in the country in view of its importance to the economy and society. Currently, in absence of a specific department or ministry responsible for housing like in many other countries, the onus is on NHDC, which has a limited mandate and resources.

A comprehensive national housing policy, followed by a good housing scheme, has become critical today.

The government made attempts in the late 90s with the approval of a national housing policy to create an enabling environment for the housing industry to flourish in the country. But the policy was never seriously pursued and only resulted in the creation of NHDC taking over the management of government housing from the department of national properties.

In the meantime, the housing pressure has increased by much. Besides the example of people residing across the border, people living only on their salary in our major towns face pressure of making ends meet as about 50 percent of their monthly income is spent on rent.

One of the main reasons cited by employees for their reluctance to go on transfer to the remote dzongkhags is poor or no accommodation available.  Housing is associated with quality of life and dignity, health, safety and security.

Considering the magnitude of the housing shortage now and in the future, it appears that the government needs to reassume the role of housing promoter and leave the developer role to NHDC, the private sector and relevant agencies. Of the 40,000 civil service and corporate employees, the government housing is only around 3,012 units (2020 NHDC and 992 NPPF) throughout the country and the rest of the housing, which is more than 92 percent, is provided by the private sector.

But the limited private housing is further curtailed by conversion to commercial space and office space.

Therefore, it would be more meaningful that the government at the macro level formulates appropriate policy intervention to create avenues of various housing schemes, including public private partnership.

Most of the employees dream of quality affordable housing now and shelter after retirement.

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