High cost of land dashes poor familes' hope for decent homes

Monday September 21 2020

Plans to resettle thousands of vulnerable families in scattered settlements and those in disaster risk areas have come to a halt due to rising land cost. PHOTO | Cyril Ndegeya


Plans to resettle thousands of vulnerable families and those in disaster risk areas have been stopped due to rising land cost.

Rwanda Today established that more than 4,784 designated sites are located on land largely owned by individuals, and rates have been highly fluctuating with speculation.

It has since become increasingly difficult for families who ought to either have money to pay for land of equivalent value for compensation for those who are lucky to find a landowner willing to accept the arrangement.

With plots having shot in value and still rising at Rwf1 million in rural sites to more than 4.5 million in urban centers and their vicinities, the majority of low income and poor families made largely of subsistence farmers would have to sell off several parcels of their arable land to afford a plot in Umudugudu site.

“In our area, when you consider that a plot at Umudugudu goes for between Rwf3 million and Rwf4 million, this is high compared with the cost of an average arable land of around Rwf700, 000.

So imagine how many parcels one would have to sell to obtain one plot, and for a farmer, there would be nothing left as a source of livelihood,” argues Didace Mugwaneza, a resident of Bugaragara site of Shyorongi Sector, Rulindo District.


In many areas surveyed by Rwanda Today in both urban centers and rural areas, settlements sites were mapped as an extension of existing built-up areas with relatively higher land rates.

The cost limitations have been cited as the main reason many families are still trapped in high risks zones or continue to illegally set up in their arable land parcels on slopes and other locations deemed not fit for building.

“Families with adult children who need to start their own families have run out of options. Now some are compelled to sell their small chunk of land and migrate to less populated rural Eastern Province which is understood to have cheaper arable land, and find housing within their means,” said Cyriaque Sibomana, a resident of Kamuhoza of Musanze town.

“I personally know five families who sold off everything and left us for good. They have settled in mutara and Kibungo.”

Local officials who spoke to Rwanda Today indicate that while the government and partners earmarked funds to support housing for the vulnerable families in zones severely threatened by landslides and flooding, the process had not been easy in locations where the government has no own land in designated settlement sites.

District officials indicate that they needed ample time to mobilise funds for the acquisition of plots and resort to the community service to put up shelters for vulnerable families.

Rwanda Housing Authority said it is aware of limitations faced by the low-income population locked out of official settlement sites.

Acting director-general Noel Nsanzineza told Rwanda Today the government is exploring different approaches to stern speculation and offer subsidies where need be.

“The social housing schemes is one approach that could assist in the acquisition of plots for these families, and then use unconventional means when it comes to building. We are also exploring some cheaper housing typologies where at least four homes can be interconnected in one plot, and that way four individuals will be able to share the cost of one plot, effectively making it much cheaper,” he said.

The National Institute of Statistics estimated the households living in Imidugudu at 59 percent in 2017, against the Government target of 70 percent by 2020.