Housing crunch continues in Phuentsholing

Thousands of Bhutanese are still resorting to reside across the border town in Jaigaon, India, because of the exorbitant rents in Phuentsholing

Contrary to the perception that the housing problems in Phuentsholing would be greatly resolved following the allotment of apartments to 506 registered applicants by the National Housing Development Corporation Limited (NHDCL) last month, housing shortage still persists in the town.

Thousands of Bhutanese are still resorting to reside across the border town in Jaigaon, India. 

With limited availability of houses on rent in the town, there are some which are available but rents are exorbitant.

Most of the Bhutanese residents in Jaigaon, comprising mainly people in the low income group and from the private and corporate sectors, therefore, prefer to stay in small rooms with reasonable house rents. A few share apartment with another housemate to share the monthly house rent.

 “We cannot afford to stay in the town as the rents are beyond our capacity,” Mika Tamang, who works in an internet café, said. She instead stays with her friend in Jaigaon and pays Nu 3,500 as monthly house rent.

With Nu 6,000 as monthly salary, she said she has to sustain for a month without additional income and she is cored to share a single room with her friend.

Meanwhile, rent for a flat or an apartment in core Phuentsholing area ranges from Nu 7,000 to Nu 15,000 a month.

And despite the government’s effort to provide affordable housing, still the demand for houses in Jaigaon has not subsided. Even after most of the recipients of the apartments from NHDCL have shifted from Jaigaon, there are still others who go to Jaigaon to find houses.

“Since the demand for housing has not subsided, now the proprietors of the buildings have also started to increase the rents for the new tenants. It’s a trend that the rent is always increased for any new tenant,” a private employee residing in Jaigaon said.

 As most of the companies at the Pasakha Industrial Estate don’t have accommodation facilities, employees working in these factories form the major chunk of Bhutanese residing in Jaigaon. All the houses in Jaigaon which were earlier vacated by the recipients of NHDCL’s housing colony are again booked by Bhutanese.

     Meanwhile, some people, who have received flats in Toribari, have also returned back the apartments allotted to them because of the rent. So far 66 recipients have refused to occupy allotted units in Toribari and three at Bangey colony.

A few, who were residing far away from Jaigaon, are now coming to Chinese lane to find accommodation as the place is just next to Phuentsholing and convenient for them.

Suk Rani Subba, who is currently residing in Mechey Basti, more than two kilometers from Jaigaon in her rented room, said her earning is too less to afford a decent room in Phuentsholing.

“I pay Nu 2,500 for a single room. Since we cannot afford with our earnings, we have to stay here,” she said, adding that she gets Nu 4,000 per month working for a shop.

However, living in Jaigaon has its own problems too – the constant fear of harassment and the absence of basic facilities like drinking water and electricity. Also, the absence of a clean environment and losing one’s belongings are some other concerns people live with every day.

 “Our children grow with the Indian culture and are blind to our very own culture, which is worrying,” M. Lama, a businessman in Phuentsholing, said.

Meanwhile, the NHDCL does not have any plan to start new housing project in Phuentsholing so far.

The NHDCL initially had received 1,259 applications till January, 2019. So far, the NHDCL has completed construction of 296 units in three different locations. NHDCL has completed 160 units in Amochhu area, 102 units in Toribari and 34 units near Chinese lane.

The remaining buildings include 60 units near FCBL auction yard, 70 units near Drungkhag colony and 80 units at NHDCL’s office. The buildings will be completed by March this year and the applicants will shift there from April.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing