Local urban NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) has released its latest report, ‘The Phnom Penh Rental Housing Survey’, which investigates the situation of urban poor renters in the country’s capital.This study provides an insight into the poor living conditions faced by these communities, and highlights some of the challenges linked to tenure insecurity, poor environmental conditions and personal safety issues.
Prior to carrying out this research, STT identified a lack of accessible data on urban renters as a sub‐group of urban poor communities, indicating that renters are a forgotten demographic group. With high migration rates from the provinces, large numbers of individuals in precarious employment situations need cheap housing, and are consequently forced to rent small, often insalubrious units, with informal tenant agreements.
In addition to their absence from census or survey work, there is little to no reference to the development of affordable housing solutions and tenure security for urban poor renters in either Circular 03 or the draft National Housing Policy. Further, in a context where land conflict and forced eviction is one of the most contentious rights’ issue in Cambodia today, STT’s experience in the field shows that, while owners of properties (even on state public land) are at times compensated when evicted, renters as a rule are left empty‐handed to seek their next shelter.
“With migration to Phnom Penh on the rise, it is clear that the need for temporary rental housing is only going to go up in the future, said Ee Sarom, Executive Director of STT. The situation is hard for renters, as urgent need for housing means that they typically do not have formal agreements with landlords, who can arbitrarily increase rent from one day to the next. The authorities should really ensure that rental agreements are formalized, to protect renters from losing their housing overnight.”
In this study, 124 households were surveyed, with a maximum monthly rent set at USD 60. The sample showed that a vast majority (86%) of renters had migrated from provinces outside Phnom Penh. 6 main profession groupings’ were identified: street vendors, food and service workers, rubbish collectors, urban poor (miscellaneous jobs), youth/students, and garment workers. On average, the rental units surveyed were approximately 13 m2, with families of up to 10 people sharing (whilst 4 was the average number of people sharing one rental unit).
The choice urban poor renters make to live where they do is in majority driven by the need for proximity to the workplace in a city with no public transport and the ability to generate an income from home. In this sense, relationships with landlords can be positive when they allow the running of small businesses from their property, and in some instances landlords also act as employers.
In terms of tenure security, a huge 98% of respondents have no formal agreement with their landlord. Fear of eviction without prior notice was noted amongst respondents. In addition, the general issue of personal safety was considered in this report, with 62% of surveyed renters reported having been victims of theft. Further, the high cost (and sometimes inexistence) of service provision such as water, electricity and rubbish collection, and the low quality of rental unit construction are daily realities for poor urban renters. These problems are compounded by the knowledge that landlords themselves can be subject to eviction notices, which will leave renters with no compensation and urgent relocation needs.
“There is a distinct need to regulate state electricity and water provision to rental sites,” said Research Project Coordinator, Nhim Kim Eang. “At the moment, residents at some rental sites are paying twice the going rate for water and electricity because they are charged by a middleman – urban poor communities should not have to pay more than other residents for these services.”
The Phnom Penh Rental Housing Survey also provides a set of recommendations ‐ going forward, the precarious situation of poor urban renters and tangible solutions for this forgotten group should be an important part of the debate about urban development. In order to address various issues such as the lack formal agreements between landlords and tenants, the unregulated pricing of service provisions such as water and electricity, the lack of rubbish collection services, and the low quality of rental unit construction, several stakeholders must be involved.
The Royal Government of Cambodia must commit to ensuring that conditions around leasing as outlined in the Civil Code are upheld, and must consider making adequate provision within the National Housing Policy for the rental situation of the urban poor. The services industries should also be involved, and are urged to consider the issue of landlords increasing the rates charged to tenants for electricity and water as well as to consider rubbish collection as a mandatory practice. Development partners can promote further enquiry into the situation of poor urban renters, and encourage the above‐mentioned stakeholders to implement these recommendations so that basic living standards are met.
The Phnom Penh Rental Housing Survey Recommendations:
- Recommendations to the Royal Government of Cambodia:
- Enforce formal conditions around lease agreements
- Integrate adequate provision for urban poor renters to the National Housing Policy
- Ensure the development of housing with preferential rates for poor renters
- Establish adequate living standards for rental housing construction
- Recommendations to the Services Industries and Local Authorities:
- Monitor rates charged to tenants for electricity and water
- Ensure rubbish collection from urban poor settlements
- Enforce regulations from the RGC on landlord‐tenant agreements
- Facilitate legal documents for urban poor renters
- Recommendations to Development Partners:
- Promote the situation of urban poor renters amongst key stakeholder
- Encourage government to consider the rental situation of urban poor
- Include questions of socio‐ economic well being and human rights in the debate about urban poor renters
About STT STT is a Cambodian organization founded in 2005 and registered with the Ministry of Interior in 2006. STT’s vision is a society in which urban inhabitants enjoy adequate housing within a sustainably developing city. Its mission is to provide pro‐poor technical assistance for housing and infrastructure and to inform dialogue and raise awareness about urban issues.
For more information, visit www.teangtnaut.org and click link for download advisory in Khmer language : STT Rental Housing Survey Media Advisory_12th Nov 2014_Kh
Mr. Ee Sarom (Kh, Eng) STT Executive Director
Tel : (+855) 12 836 533
Ms. Honesty Pern (Eng) STT Program Advisor
Tel : (+855) 88 719 5763