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White Building resident Tha Borany wants the government to know just one thing: “Please don’t let the people leave in tears. We want to live, or leave happily.” Pha Lina

Population mostly out of touch with property boom

If it hasn’t been reiterated enough, the Kingdom is going through an unprecedented property and construction boom at present.

Besides industry experts who have been predicting an imminent glut in the market, with condo and borey sales declining, not the same can be said for those on the other end of the spectrum.

A substantial chunk of the population are not particularly privy to the ongoing phenomenon, while many are indifferent to it.

Office worker Vitou, 30, lives in a two-storey shophouse, renting space that sets him back $300 a month.

Unconcerned with the big picture, he lamented about the weak water system in the house and the long distance from the capital’s centre.

“I don’t know if the property market is booming or not because I haven’t been following it. If I see information about it, I’ll read it, but if not, I wouldn’t be bothered,” he said, adding that he did not know the worth of the land he is staying on, although he knew that land prices were generally increasing.

Vitou was more concerned with the country’s escalating political strains, saying, “If the political situation is stable, the property price will go up accordingly. If it’s unstable, there might be a price drop. It depends on the political situation.”

Chakriya, 28, whose mother is the owner of Phariya Condominium on Street 99, is the main leaser of all the units in the same condo. She lives in one of the units, and rents out all the other units from $500 upwards, catering to the so-called middle-income class in Cambodia.

According to Chakriya, the property market can only keep moving forward: “I think the boom is good because when there are many condos, more foreigners would come in, so our economy goes up as well. I don’t think there’s such a thing as too many condos because I see so many investors coming to invest in Cambodia.”

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Inside a two-bedroom house in the White Building. Pha Lina

Meanwhile, Sonina Thon, a 28-year old executive director of O.S.C Co. Ltd. – a medical equipment supplier and construction consultant company – provided more insight on how the more affluent population of those living in boreys views the property market.

“The [industry] used to be even more booming than the current status because there were fewer competitors back then. However, there’s still a huge market growing nowadays. I can say that all of the units here have been sold out and mostly one owner owns at least two to three units,” said the resident of borey townhouse Camko City.

She estimated the average price of a Camko City home to be between $200,000 and $240,000.

Asked why she thinks the government is still not providing low-cost or affordable housing to the vast majority of Cambodians, Thon said, “I think it’s because people only focus on the central [city centre areas] which increase the value of housing and lands in the city.”

Perhaps – ironically – most apathetic to the current predicament of real estate are those from the lower-income class.

Tha Borany, a 61-year-old former traditional dancer, has been living in the White Building for the past 36 years. Last week, the White Building was reported as being next on the demolition list, and Borany has resigned to the fact that she will go along with whatever plans the government has for the residents of the building.

“I don’t know much about the property market, and I don’t know which direction anything is heading. I only care about my retirement. I stay home and sew clothes. Other than that, I don’t want to know anything.”

She had a single message for the authorities: “Government, please don’t let the people leave in tears. We want to live, or leave happily.”

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