Private building owners say constructions by NHDCL and other government agencies affect them

Private building owners say constructions by NHDCL and other government agencies affect them

People in urban areas of Bhutan construct houses not only to ensure that they have a roof over their heads but also with the hope of generating additional income. Without sufficient budget at hand, building loans are availed from financial institutions (FIs).

However, with the National Housing Development Corporation Limited (NHDCL) and other government agencies also constructing buildings, private building owners are concerned that they will have no tenants, leading to their failure to pay loans.

Replying to this concern expressed, chief executive officer (CEO), of NHDCL, Rinchen Wangdi said that the projects NHDCL have in hand will cater only for the lower income. Rinchen Wangdi said the NHDCL will never venture to construct buildings for the middle and higher income group as it is mostly catered by private owners.

“Everywhere we look, there are no private owners who cater to houses for low income group and that is why the market strategy of the NHDCL is different, due to which there won’t be any impact to private building owners,” he said.

When asked about concerns of private building owners in Samdrup Jongkhar, where NHDCL has a project coming up, Rinchen Wangdi said that as Samdrup Jongkhar is a business hub of  the eastern, there will always be housing shortage. “NHDCL’s project is for affordable housing based on a study carried out by NHDCL where it was found that there was a housing gap predominately in the low income bracket,” he added.

The CEO highlighted that the feasibility study of the housing gap in Samdrup Jongkhar was done in 2020 and that NHDCL has an enough evidences showing that there is a housing gap in Samdrup Jongkhar.  

Similarly, the CEO shared that the local people of Trashiyangtse had submitted a similar concern to the Dzongkhag and the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) regarding NHDCL’s project in the Dzongkhag claiming that with the Kholongchhu Hydro Energy Limited (KHEL) on hold, the houses of the local people are empty.

The people had written that with the NHDCL project coming up, it had become a concern for the people. The CEO said that with the KHEL project there will be housing shortage.

Remarking on what the CEO had to say, a building owner in Samdrup Jongkhar said that while it is good that the NHDCL is constructing houses for the lower income groups, there are people from higher income groups living in the houses too. “The Changiji colony in Thimphu has been and is still an example,” he said, adding that the case will be the same in Samdrup Jongkhar.

“I do not agree that there is housing shortage in Samdrup Jongkhar. Four of my 3BHK flats are empty, though the rent is only Nu 9, 000. I cannot pay the EMIs and I am concerned that the Bank will seize the property. And we now have NHDCL,” he said, adding that there are many like him who are worried.

A contractor based in Samdrup Jongkhar added that he regrets having begun constructing a house. “Samdrup Jongkhar was once the hub of eastern Bhutan. It is now a dying town and I sincerely do not understand why NHDCL is investing here,” he said.

Similar to what the building owner above mentioned, he said that NHDCL has no mechanisms to monitor and ensure that only those from the low income group are provided flats. “I heard that NHDCL is working on a mechanism to ensure that this does not happen. But it will be very tricky as a wife could be from the low income group even if the husband is a director. What will NHDCL then do,” the contractor questioned. 

Meanwhile, an engineer who did not want to be named said that the issue is not only with NHDCL but almost all government agencies.

“NHDCL at least has a target group and private building owners may not be really affected. However, look at others, such as the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) and the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD),” he said, adding that massive buildings are build within the educational premises without a master plan.

“Taktse and Sherubtse colleges are very good examples. Several staff quarters and hostels were built and the former should have been left for the private people. Now, enrolment would decrease drastically. What will happen to these structures,” he questioned, adding that it is the same with the MoESD. 

“Central schools are reportedly seeing fewer students, meaning that many structures will remain unutilized, unless new programs are initiated,” the engineer said.

He further added that budget for infrastructure development could have been used for landscaping, beautification, enhancing internet connectivity and others. “Infrastructure development does not mean constructing massive buildings. There is more to it,” he said.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu