The ministry of works and human settlement’s announcement during its recent session at the orientation programme that it has drafted a housing policy is a much-awaited intervention.
The pressure on housing has surfaced for years now and aggravating annually. It remains an issue that merits a bold and targeted solution through appropriate policy measures.
According to UN-Habitat, 3 billion people will need new housing and basic urban infrastructure by 2030 and 60 percent of the Global population will live in urban areas. Our own Vision 2020, forecasts 50 percent of the Bhutanese population to live in urban areas. The National Statistical Bureau projects Bhutan’s population at 809,397 by 2020 and 886,523 by 2030. Some reports project 2016 urban population at 309,746 (39.5 percent), which means the urban population will increase by 94,952 within the next three years and 133,516 by 2030.
The existing backlog of housing shortages compounded by the evident housing needs, due to increase of population, will need a comprehensive national housing policy in place. Can housing policy be used to decongest over burdened and concentrated urban areas in the country, especially Thimphu and Phuentsholing? Yes, there is a strong possibility that with appropriate housing schemes and housing finances, decongesting could be achievable.
In the current scenario, all salaried citizens, those dependent only on their monthly salary income, are incapacitated to save due to high rental and vehicle loan repayment.
There cannot be a better incentive for a citizen than to own a house, or, if not at least a decent shelter towards the end of one’s life long career.
A majority of housing studies and researches globally indicates a strong relation to immediate and long-term negative impact of homelessness and poor housing to crime and particularly, on children’s lives, both physical and mental, and declining quality of life.
As we continue our battle against poverty and inequality, a UN study predicts that by 2030, the gap between rich and poor will widen and inequality in education and health care will continue in the Asia and Pacific region. As housing plays a key socio-economic role and represents the main wealth of the poor in most developing countries, perhaps, housing deserves to be at the centre of our development efforts.
A comprehensive national housing policy encompassing the roles of the government, corporate and private sector, and the beneficiaries creating an enabling environment with realistic housing scheme(s) and finance(s) will go a long way in addressing the housing issue for now and in the future.
It is time we tackle the housing situation because “Housing is absolutely essential to human flourishing. Without stable shelter, it all falls apart.”