Urgent need for low-cost houses

Monday May 27 2019


Most property developers focus on building high-end properties, which are out of reach for many Rwandans earning a low income. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

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The government is being urged to invest in affordable housing subsidies or ease of zoning requirements to cater for current and future housing needs of low-income residents in the new master plan for Kigali City.

A team of experts tasked with designing the new Kigali City master plan, which will guide growth up to 2050, largely blame the long-standing low-cost housing issues to the lack of localised definition for affordability under the existing city plans.

The data the team collected in a survey that served as a basis for the design of the new master plan, suggest that the affordability ratios for majority of the residents are too low.

The data shows that more than 59 per cent of Kigali city dwellers earned less than Rwf100,000 a month, and could only afford to spend more than Rwf40,000 a month on rent or to buy a house.

According to planners, meeting the needs for the city’s majority low-income residents would call for specific government interventions as most low-cost housing initiatives appear to be biased towards middle and high-income earners.

“Most people earn very little and yet the housing options available to them are too expensive because construction materials, labour and land costs are too high,’ said Benon Rukundo, a Kigali City urban planner working with Surbana Jurong Consultants, a Singaporean planning firm that is designing the new master plan.


High costs

The zoning regulations in the 2013 master plan were blamed for the high housing costs, which are unaffordable for most low-income households in Kigali City especially in unplanned suburbs dominated by small homes and tiny rooms for rent.

In particular, residents in areas such as Kimicanga and lower Kiyovu were forced to vacate with or without compensation to give room for the implementation of the existing master plan, which largely promotes high-rise structures.

City authorities are still grappling with the controversial relocation of hundreds of families in Bannyahe slum located in the high-end Nyarutarama suburb following disagreement over compensation terms.

Rwanda Today has established that the widening gap in low-cost housing and the ongoing slum eradication exercise has led to higher rent costs on the few available houses, with instances where occupants resort to overcrowding in small rental rooms to cope.

A spot-check on the market showed that renting a single room costs between Rwf50,000 and Rwf80,000 in many Kigali suburbs with access to key amenities, while the cheapest costs between Rwf30,000 and Rwf45,000 in areas deemed high risk.