Recently, the Development Bank of Rwanda Plc. (BRD) in partnership with Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) launched an online platform called Iwanjye to facilitate registration for affordable housing.
The system will verify qualification of the applicant against set criteria by the government to benefit from the affordable housing scheme. Thereafter, eligible applicants will be notified to proceed and choose their future home in any location of their choice but in line with the location master plan and consequent mortgage loan processing.
For many Rwandans who are struggling to find decent housing, a basic human need, the announcement by BRD has raised optimism though it is too early to tell whether it will indeed be an effective channel.
Housing is one of the basic human needs: The World Health Organisation defined it as a “residential environment which includes, in addition to the physical structure that man uses for shelter, all necessary services, facilities, equipment and devices needed or desired for the physical and mental health and social well-being of the family.”
Starting from this point, affordable housing can be described in many ways. According to research, the term is used to define a specific type of housing, made available by governments to those unable to afford one, also known as social housing.
More generally speaking, housing can be considered affordable if its cost is below the 30 percent of the household income because if a family pays more than 30 percent of their income for housing, it is considered a cost burden.
Apart from the economic perspective, affordable also means physically adequate and fit for human habitation: In simple words, a house cannot be considered affordable if it is overcrowded and unhealthy.
To evaluate the real cost of housing then, housing-related expenditures (housing, water, electricity) should be kept into consideration as well, since those are what make a house healthy and appropriate for living.
Over the years, the government has invested in several housing schemes to provide affordable housing. Unfortunately, so far there is no measurable and tangible progress. Many Rwandans are still struggling to find decent shelter. The housing affordability crisis has made life particularly hard for low-income earners.
Official data shows that lower income earners who make up more than 59 percent of the city population earn less than Rwf100,000 a month and can only afford to spend Rwf40,000 on housing per month. The data also shows annual demand for housing in Kigali is at more than 30,000 units, but supply is at only 1,000 units largely dominated by high-income residents.
The government has to do more to ensure a lot more housing is built particularly in Kigali to cater for low-income earners who are more than 50 percent of the city’s population. This should include giving incentives to property developers to specifically increase investment in low cost housing.