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Residents housing crunch issue with PM

They were assured that all points raised would be looked into soon

Phuentsholing Thromde: Phuentsholing residents, at a meeting with the prime minister yesterday, raised housing crunch faced by the town as an issue urgently in need of a solution.

Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley, who was in town to visit families who will be affected by Amochu hydropower project works, also met with residents, who included civil servants, business community, corporate employees and others.

Lyonchhen assured that the matter would be looked into, and agreed to include any plan, developed by the thromde office, towards eradicating the housing crunch, into the 11th Five Year Plan.

The residents said housing crunch has been a longstanding problem, which has led to Bhutanese seeking shelter in the Indian border town of Jaigaon.

Phuntsho Wangdi, a Bhutan chamber of commerce and industry representative, said the acute shortage of house was affecting mostly the low-income group.

Another resident said residents were left at the mercy of the house owners, who increased rents without following the Tenancy Act.

National housing development corporation (NHDC) manager, Tshering Penjor, said three buildings worth Nu 46.2M, with 8 units each, were under construction.

“If everything goes as planned, we’ll be taking over from the contractor by February,” he said. “And allotment will start by March.”

For the upcoming apartments, over 100 civil servants, in the low-income group, have already applied for it.

Apart from the three buildings, Tshering Penjor said, the corporation was in the process of acquiring 3.5 acres of land near old hospital for new construction. “Once acquired, we’ll begin another construction to help curb the housing crunch,” he said.

Tshering Penjor said the corporation constructs houses, as and when there is a budget, and it was not required to be in the plan.

Thromde officials said they have no authority to construct buildings for civil servants, but agreed to provide support, like land acquisition and issue of approval for construction.

A few residents suggested private sector involvement, through incentives, so they can construct houses  for low income people.

Meanwhile, 11 residents, who have been asked by NHDC to vacate their apartments at the Gol building by January 20, appealed to the prime minister to look into the matter.

“We can’t find a house, so I don’t know where we’re supposed to go,” a resident, Choney Dorji, said.  “We’ve been threatened with a court letter.”

Tshering Penjor said the residents were asked to vacate, because the house was meant for civil servants, while the 11 were businessmen or private firm employees. “There are civil servants, who are suffering more than them.”

Tshering Penjor said, works and human settlement secretary has asked NHDC to allow them to stay for a month longer. “It’s yet to be decided,” Tshering Penjor said.

Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley said the issue will be discussed in Thimphu, and the residents informed about the decision.

Other issues discussed at the three-hour long meeting were business fronting, condition of city roads and urban land tax.

The economic affairs minister Khandu Wangchuk said the ministry was working on addressing the fronting issue by trying to collect evidence.

The prime minister assured residents all matters discussed would be looked into soon.

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Phuentsholing

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