The boom in high-rise buildings in Phnom Penh indicates the robust economic growth of the Kingdom, but this trend does not include the lower-end accommodation where most economic migrants to Phnom Penh rent.
“Cheap rental accommodation plays a crucial role in providing appropriate settlements to those hundreds of thousands of people who spend less than US$100 per month for their temporary stays in Phnom Penh,” said Chrek Soknim, deputy director at Vtrust Property Co.
The urban population is increasing relentlessly, partly due to migrants from rural parts of Cambodia coming for study and work, as well as foreign expats and visitors. The population is of Phnom Penh is around 1.6 million, although other sources suggest it has hit 2.2 million recently.
The latest data indicates the number of factory workers was around 500,000, most of whom come from the provinces to work in Phnom Penh and Kandal province.
Soknim said the number of people coming for work and business in Phnom Penh increases every year, and the demand for rental accommodation also increases.
“But the current supply of cheap rental rooms does not match the demand,” said Soknim, adding that even though there is no clear data, the recent figure of rental accommodations obtained from district reports was around 4,000 units, most of which are rooms that suits one to five persons.
Vacancy is often short, less than a week, indicating a high demand for lower-priced rooms and flats.
“A tenant leaves his rental room today, and you’ll see a new tenant come to replace him immediately,” said Soknim.
An accommodation at $35-$100 per month is often shared by a group of tenants who come for their studies and factory work in Phnom Penh.
Phay Veasna, who came from Prey Veng province to pursue his studies at the University of Cambodia rents a 50 square metre room roofed by zinc materials. The rental price is $80 per month.
Students are on a limited budget while studying, and sharing a small amount could mean much. He shares $20 each for the total rental fee among his four roommates.
“Sometimes, the place is kind of polluted by sound and disturbances, but we have no choice,” said Veasna.
Ly Burat, who is from Kompong Cham province and works at M&V International Manufacturing Ltd, is also renting a small room near her workplace.
“Renting a cheap room, I can save a lot, and through this I can support my aged parents and younger sisters and brothers who are still at school,” said Burat.
The lower-level rental accommodation should be improved by investing in this subsector. “Investors should study and invest in this business to provide reasonable, secured rental services for lower- and middle-class tenants,” said Soknim.
Blocks of lower class rental accommodations are usually located nearby industrial sites, factories and universities on the outskirts of Phnom Penh such as Sen Sok, Russey Keo and Mean Chey districts.
Decent standards of living for factory workers and labourers are currently mainly out of reach. The lower-class rental accommodations still be around in the future.
Initiating provisions of cheap accommodation, Thailand has started establishing public buildings, rather like small, cheap condos to rent to migrant labourers and poorer residents. This has helped ease housing shortages in Bangkok.
The initiatives of servicing proper public or private accommodations in less industrial locations to migrant labourers and lower and middle class people could be a solution to shortages of housing and easing of traffic congestion.
Additional reporting by Hoem Seiha