For a Roof over One’s Head and respite from the Hammers of Building Owners

NHDCL to construct 123 buildings comprising 1,018 units of affordable houses in six different locations in the country

Unable to qualify for college after class XII, Dorji (name changed) completed a certificate course at the Royal Institute of Management (RIM) and joined the civil service. Coming from a humble family, his aspiration was to help his family financially.

It was not long before he realized that his aspiration was a dream, as the Nu 13,000

he took home as salary was not sufficient to lead a decent life in Thimphu; mainly because 50% of his salary went into the account of his landlord.

Dorji embodies hundreds of people, especially those working in urban Bhutan where rents have soared in the last couple of years. Additionally, there are others in places like Phuentsholing, who have to either live in Jaigoan, India, or live together in a small space, due to a shortage of houses.

However, there is now a silver lining on the horizon for the likes of Dorji as the National Housing Development Corporation Limited (NHDCL), has almost completed the groundwork for a housing project that would be green and resilient to climate change.

With USD 32mn funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), 123 buildings comprising 1,018 units will be built on about 26 acres in six different locations around the country.

Moreover, policy changes to enable private and corporate employees too, like in Phuentsholing are also being studied.

According to the chief executive officer (CEO), of NHDCL, Rinchen Wangdi, the project will be completed by 2027. Rents of NHDCL-owned houses are heavily subsidized and about 60% lower compared to the market rates.

“There are five different types of design for the six locations,” the CEO said, adding that the location includes Phuentsholing and Samtse in Amochu (Bangay) and Drungpa resident area, Dradulthang and Samdrup Jongkhar toed in Samdrup Jongkhar; Nganglam in Pemagatshel; Trashiyangtse followed by Semtokha in Thimphu.

A total of about 130 units of these houses will be built in Thimphu, spread over nine different locations. 700 units, which is the maximum of the units, comprising 80 percent of the total construction will be in Phuentsholing.

The CEO further added that as of now, the affordable houses were catered only to civil servants except in Phuentsholing. This is based on the allotment rules and regulations of 2014.

However, he said rules are being revised to enable private and corporate sector employees to reap the benefits. “Once the rules are endorsed by the board, we will also cater to the needs of the private and the corporate sector employees,” he said, adding that a quota will be set for them.

Currently, there are 2,414 units of the affordable house of which about 400 units have been allocated to employees of the private sector in Phuentsholing.

He also said that Tading and Rinchendingin Phuentsholing were cancelled after a geo-technical investigation of the soil condition. “Since we are facing a land shortage in Phuentsholing, we are looking for other potential lands in coordination with the PhuentsholingThromde and other relevant stakeholders.”

However, Amochu and the area around the Drungpa residence have been cleared and bids for construction will be floated by the end of this month.

The CEO added that construction at the two sites in Phuentsholing will be ready by the end of 2024 and the other five locations by 2027.

Concerning Trashiyangtse, he said that all preliminary works have been conducted and NHDCL is waiting for ADB’s No Objection Letter (NOL), after which the procurement process will begin. Designs for Nganglam and Samdrup Jongkhar are ready and are in the final phase of compilation.

Meanwhile, Jigme, a private entrepreneur from Phuentsholing called it one of the best news that he is hearing. “The pandemic has hit us severely. While some building owners reduced their rents, others did not even consider the plight we are in.

The NHDCL houses in Phuentsholing will help many people, especially those earning very low. Today, you will see about 10 people sharing a two-unit flat,” he said.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu