At least 80 percent of Dhaka residents spend 60 percent of their income on rent
Sharmin Akter, a school teacher from the Wari area of Dhaka has long cherished a dream to become a homeowner in the capital since her marriage with Riadh.
Even after being together for more than a decade, Sharmin and Riadh's dream of owning a flat remains unfulfilled.
"We spend a large portion of our income on rent. Buying a flat seems impossible even if we save money for it. By the time we save enough money, the price of the flat increases. We do not have the confidence to get a loan," said Sharmin.
"It hurts to remember that there is no place we can call our own," she added.
Like Sharmin, buying a flat is an unfulfilled dream for most people in the lower and middle-income groups. Data from the Consumers Association of Bangladesh reveals that around 80 percent of the 1.8 crore Dhaka city residents live in rented homes.
Owning a home in Dhaka is out of reach for most of them.
The Consumers Association of Bangladesh's President Ghulam Rahman blamed the high price of plots and flats on high building construction costs and ever-increasing house rent.
He said, "House rent has increased around three-fold in the city in the past 15 years. At least 80 percent of the residents spend 60 percent of their income on rent, as a result they cannot save money to buy flats.
"The price of plots and flats increased five to seven fold in the past three decades."
According to the consumers association, the price of flats has increased by 390 percent in the past 18 years from 2000 to 2018. The price increased by 8.83 percent in 2017 and 9.91 percent in 2018.
However, several real estate businessmen claim that the price of flats increased four to six times in the past 18 years, and plot prices went up even more compared to that of flats.
Why do flat and plot prices increase in Dhaka?
Several analysts said Dhaka's shortage of housing and the government's lack of initiatives are behind the increasing price of plots and flats in the city.
Data from the National Population Research and Training Institute reveals that the population of Dhaka is now around 1.8 crore, but there are only around 3.1 lakh holdings in the city.
Approximately 15.5 lakh people live in their own homes in Dhaka, while more than 90 percent are renters.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the population of Dhaka increases by an average of 1,418 people every day, which is about 5 lakh people every year.
The Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) approves the design of around 2,500 new buildings every year.
If, on average, these buildings have six floors and two units per floor, then around 30,000 new flats are being built in Dhaka every year. If five people on average live on each floor, then around 1.5 lakh people are being housed in those flats every year, according to the bureau.
The large difference between supply and demand is quite obvious, which in turn contributes to the skyrocketing price of plots and flats in Dhaka.
Ghulam Rahman, the president of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said, "A large number of people are unable to save money because of the high cost of living. At present there are not many government initiatives in this sector, so the price of plots and flats are increasing day by day."
However, a number of businessmen blamed high registration fees and bank loan interest rates for the high price of flats and plots.
The president of the Real Estate & Housing Association of Bangladesh, Alamgir Shamsul Alamin, said, "Buyers have to pay 4% gains tax, 3% stamp duty, 2% registration fee, 2% local government fee and 3% value-added tax (VAT) to buy a flat or plot.
"High taxes are preventing the development of a secondary market system in the housing sector. Lowering bank interest rates, reducing registration fees and tax rates, and developing a secondary market system will reduce the price of flats and plots."
Limited government initiative
Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) says the government has funded only 7% of the total housing projects in Dhaka, while the Ministry of Housing and Public Works has launched 61 projects so far.
Apart from government quarters, only seven of these projects are for people of lower-income and for slum dwellers.
The government also launched a few more housing projects for the ultra poor, landless, rootless and homeless people through the Ministry of Land's Adarsha Gram and Guccho-Gram projects, and the Ashrayan project under supervision of the prime minister's office.
Responding to a query, the chairman of Rajuk, Dr Sultan Ahmed, said, "We are building 20,160 apartments in Uttara which will cost buyers Tk3000-3,500 per square feet."
"As many as 62,000 apartments in Purbachal, 9,500 apartments beside the Dhaka-Mawa Highway and 20,000 apartments in the Keraniganj and Savar areas are under construction for low-income people."
Urban planners believe if the government takes the necessary initiatives to build more flats, it will allow more poeple to buy homes within their financial capacity.
"Due to income inquality, the high-income group has a lot of wealth, while low-income people barely have enough. Under the circumstances, the low-income group's capacity to buy or rent flats has gotten even lower," said Professor Md Akter Mahmud of Jahangirnagar University's Urban and Regional Planning Department.
According to Bangladesh's first real estate market broker Bproperty, unplanned urbanisation is one of the reasons for the housing crisis in Dhaka.
Addressing the issue, Bproperty CEO Mark Nosworthy said, "Many people contact us every day with queries about buying a flat, but the majority of them cannot afford it.
"The income of people in the middle class has gone up, and large families are now preferring to live as smaller families. Many of them have the financial capacity to get their own place, but there are relatively few flats and plots availability."
He added, "Property developers are yet to realise that there is a demand for compact, open plan and two-bedroom flats in Dhaka, such as the ones in New York, Singapore and Hong Kong."