Building Knowledge and Capacity for Managing Green, Resilient, and Affordable Housing

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Bhutan’s expanding urban population brings with it considerable housing challenges that affect the safety and living conditions of residents.

On 22 September 2022, CDIA formally started a project preparation study (PPS) that will build the knowledge and capacity of the Bhutanese government to deliver green, resilient, and affordable housing in the cities of Thimpu, Phuentsholing, Samtse, and Mongar.

“The support we are giving through this project is not the usual project preparation study that we do wherein we prepare pre-feasibility studies,” said Ramon Abracosa, CDIA Program Manager. “This one has a strong element of institutional capacity building that will focus on any needs to make the design of the affordable housing not just affordable, but also green, climate-resilient, and attractive for private sector participation.”

About 40% of the country’s population of 763,092 already live in urban areas and it is expected to grow even further. Bhutan is also prone to earthquakes and flash floods, and climate change is expected to exacerbate these hazards.

Affordable housing is limited in the country, impacting negatively on the quality of life of its residents. Suitable land is scarce while construction cost is high. Already, half of the urban households live in rented dwellings, and the housing prices are also on the rise due to increasing demand.

The government is committed to ensuring adequate housing for all, as indicated in the National Housing Policy (NHP) of 2020. It is notable that the policy also promotes a low-carbon emission and climate-resilient development strategy for the housing sector.

Anchored on NHP 2020, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is supporting the government to implement the Green and Resilient Affordable Housing Sector Project (GRAHSP). Through a $24-million loan and $6-million grant assistance, which are ongoing, the investments seek to deliver affordable housing in the identified cities, thereby improving the livability, safety, and sustainability of their human settlements.

Parallel to the implementation of GRAHSP, CDIA’s PPS will build the knowledge and capacity of the National Housing Development Corporation Limited (NHDCL), the agency responsible for the delivery and operation of public housing in Bhutan; and key city departments to fully achieve the GRAHSP objectives. It will also pave the way for the envisioned second phase of the ongoing ADB loan project supporting the housing sector.

CDIA’s advisory support will be implemented in stages over eight months. First, CDIA will develop an institutional and capacity development (I/CD) roadmap containing action plans to address the capacity needs and gaps that can hinder project implementation.

It will then support NHDCL and the cities on climate- and disaster-resilient planning, and the design of affordable housing units. It will also conduct a comprehensive review of housing regulations and recommend improvements as well as propose options to leverage private sector support in the project.

Finally, CDIA will undertake broader training and knowledge sharing activities identified in the I/CD roadmap that can be implemented in the short-term horizon. This could include capacity building program on building code; and for NHDCL in particular, management information system, operations and maintenance capacity, and public-private partnership arrangement.

After the presentation, participants had the chance to clarify the PPS scope, timelines, and deliverables; and outline some key challenges that can affect the development of affordable housing in Bhutan.

Following the kickoff meeting, the CDIA team started visiting the cities to do situation assessments to bring to the fore issues that can hamper project implementation, and discuss concrete activities to implement under the PPS.

 “Through this technical assistance (TA), our expectation is we use the findings of the study for our planning, especially for this project and for other upcoming projects,” said Rinchen Wangdi, Chief Executive Officer of NHDCL during his opening remarks. “The objectives of the technical assistance are quite a lot; it has come at the right time and we are extremely looking forward to taking this TA forward,” he added.

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