l Tashi Wangmo, Thimphu
For the residents of Phuentsholing thromde, the melting pot of the country, affordable housing has been an issue that has been grappling the municipality and the inhabitants alike for quite a long while now.
And, with most of the available housing structures occupied by business entities, from both within and outside the country, the problem seem to compound with every passing year.
Uttar Kumar Rai, the Thrompon of Phuentsholing thromde, said that the issue of housing crunch in the border town is not new and that the municipality is constantly working to ease the problem.
“We understand that the issue deserves utmost attention but it is not a thing that can be solved overnight,” the Thrompon said, adding that they have already started expanding the city with additional affordable housing structures.
But residents, who are forced to live across the border in neighbouring Jaigoan and Dalsingpara areas, say that most of the structures in the core municipal area are occupied by businessmen to store their goods instead of renting it for domestic housing.
To this, the Thrompon said that as per the rule it is permissible to convert residential structures into the hotels or any type of business that fall in the core areas under the Thromde Structural Plan (TSP).
“A few house owners who meet the required standard size of hotel had converted their residential buildings into hotels and not as a go downs as is being pointed out by some people,” the Thrompon said.
The Thrompon added that, while the Thromde does not have any authority to stop the owners, from converting their residential structures into hotels or for other commercial purposes, the law, however, does not permit them to rent it out as go downs.
Uttar Kumar Rai said that the existence of some go downs in the core area that are seen today are those that had existed before the structural plan was implemented in 2013, and that the municipality has been strictly monitoring on the issue.
“Gradually, all of the existing go downs in the core municipal areas will be made to relocate to other designated areas in the extended thromde as soon as the infrastructures are ready,” the Thrompon said, adding that no go downs were entertained after the structural plan was implemented in 2013.
The Thrompon also said that if Thromde had to look for housing and accommodation for all the citizens, then what will organizations like the National Housing Development Cooperation Limited (NHDCL), who are mandated to tackle such issues, do?
He added that the Thromde have lots of government agencies housed in Phuentsholing with their own respective responsibility to render services to the citizen. “Therefore, every agency has its own role to play and not just the municipality alone.”
“The Thromde also does not have the authority to take over housing constructions as the responsibilities and mandates fall under the banner of NHDCL. The Thromde can just facilitate others agencies by providing services and public facilities,” Uttar Kumar added.
He further said that the Thromde has already provided 14.2 acres of land to NHDCL to develop affordable housing structures, which is currently under construction. After the completion of the projects it is expected to accommodate about 506 households.
The Thrompon said that although a vast majority of the available land in the extended municipal areas belonged to private individuals, the Thromde has been facilitating the constructions through land pooling so that everybody is benefited by the project.
“We are making sure that the works are carried out as planned and the Thromde is leaving no stones unturned to ensure that the residents are provided with alternative and affordable housing facilities,” Uttar Kumar Rai said.