Plot-owners were given until 2016 to complete any building constructions

Housing: With only a year left before constructions will not be permitted, 21 plot owners in Lhuentse’s main town are yet to even start constructing their buildings.

Of 28 plot owners issued their lag thrams (ownership certificates) in 2008, only five have completed their buildings while two are currently constructing their buildings.

The dzongkhag administration has announced in 2013 that all plot-owners must complete any constructions by 2016.

One of the shopkeepers, Dechen Zangmo said, because of the freeze on housing loans till last year, only a few shopkeepers constructed their houses.

She added that with the small incomes they earn, constructing  buildings is beyond their income bracket.

She also said that even if banks give loans, the shopkeepers will still be responsible for constructing the first floor, which may not be possible.

Plot-owners are not happy.

“The problem is we don’t get 100 percent housing loan from the banks,” a shopkeeper, Nagchila, 52, said. He added that a mortgage is also required to obtain a loan but that he did not own any assets to mortgage.

Another resident, Dechen Zangmo, 60, said, even if they start construction works with whatever money available to them, they still won’t be able to complete the construction. “Lack of housing loans from financial institutes is the main reason for the delay.”

Many shopkeepers said that if they were given housing loans most would have completed their buildings. “Even if the place doesn’t grow in terms of business, there’ll be income for us through house rents and other activities,” another resident, Karma Choki, 36, said.

The town’s tshogpa, Sonam Wangdi, said those who completed houses had done so because they had adequate resources. But the rest had to seek all possible means of support and get loans from the banks.

Sonam Wangdi said site development activities started since 2004, with support from the World Bank, and basic infrastructure like footpaths and water supply were in place, but most work stopped there, after the loans were stopped.

He said if the government could help in facilitating the loans, many shopkeepers could start constructing their houses on their designated plots. Plot-owners will need at least Nu 500,000 to be able to buy constructions materials.

In Lhuentse, shopkeepers still sell goods from wooden makeshift structures built more than a decade ago, while civil servants and corporate employees still live in clusters of shacks, built of planks and tin sheets.

“If the government could give 100 percent loans, we’d be grateful because we’re still living in old makeshift huts, even though we have our own plots,” another shopkeeper said.

Civil servant, Khandu Wangmo, 29, said that her family is forced to live in unhygienic conditions given the makeshift infrastructure they reside in.

Business women, Yeshi, said that the danger of rocks falling and fire accidents in future were other dangers they faced living in makeshifts huts.

Dzongkhag engineer Kelzang Lhundrup said the issue has been forwarded to the National Land Commission.

The 35 shops in town, including the 28 plot owners, cater to customers from the three gewogs of Kurtoe, Gangzur, and Khoma.

Tashi Phuntsho