Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Many residents have left Phuentsholing in the past two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Those who remained expected the acute housing shortage to improve. However, many say it has not.

Finding a house or a business space in Phuentsholing still remains a difficult task. The rents have also not decreased either.

A resident from Phuentsholing gewog’s peri-urban area, Shankar Rai, has been looking for an apartment in the town for the past two months.

“I haven’t found one yet,” he said.

“There is no house to rent in the town. I thought it would be easy because many left this town. But it’s still difficult.”

Shankar Rai said rent for a three-bedroom apartment in the town area starts from minimum Nu 15,000 to Nu 16,000.

Meanwhile, many say it is the high rent that makes it difficult for people to avail an apartment or a business space.

Sonam Wangdi, a restauranteur, has been continuously looking for a good space for one week.

“Although I got a few places, the rate is really high,” he said, adding that a restaurant space asked him Nu 52,000 a month.

Sonam Wangdi said the lowest property owners are asking was Nu 15,000 per month.

Meanwhile, many are also expecting another Covid-19 wave even if it may not be as severe as the previous ones. Considering this, some say the house rent in Phuentsholing will not fall.

However, the main reason why it is difficult to get space or rentals in Phuentsholing is attributed to building owners providing their apartments as stores to shopkeepers. This has always been a major problem in Phuentsholing.

A businessman said until the relevant agencies come up with certain checks and balances more apartments will be kept as stores. “This is because shopkeepers offer more.”

The businessman said those shopkeepers are paying taxes for apartments, while the apartments are being used for commercial purposes. This is where government agencies can look into, he added.

“Thromde office is losing in many ways. Godown means commercial but the taxes are not paid for the same,” he said. “If this is checked, the thromde will be able to curb 20 percent of the housing problem in Phuentsholing.”

In the town, house rents range from Nu 12,000 to Nu 20,000 per month.

Another businessman, Tshering Dorji, expected rents to come down after many fronting shops were closed last year. “But the rents are increasing.”

However, Tshering Dorji said residents are equally to be blamed as they keep buying and selling shop spaces without the owners’ knowledge.

“But now the owners know about it. So they increase the rent,” he said, adding that when people keep on selling and buying spaces, new tenants lose track of the last increase.

“Owners take advantage,” he said.