Recently, the government embarked of removing informal settlements around Kigali city, cracking down on structures in wetlands and high risk zones to promote decent and affordable housing in the capital city.
Since then, thousands have been relocated around the city, leaving on the verge of becoming homeless.
While the government has issued clear guidelines on land use and demarcated areas for residential, commercial and agriculture use, limited access to affordable housing makes compliance difficult.
For instance, many city dwellers are reluctant to move from high risk zones because they are worried about finding a new source of livelihood, and more importantly affordable rent.
So far, several attempts to address the housing deficit and subsequent implementation of low-cost housing projects has turned out to supply homes which are not only located in areas that make it difficult to find a source of livelihood but also the cost of such houses out of reach for many who live hand to mouth.
Worse still, the housing deficit is likely to continue in the foreseeable future because of little or no progress on at least five of the ongoing cost housing projects that were to supply more than 5,900 homes.
Rwanda Today’s field visits at several sites earmarked for affordable housing development found construction works had either not taken off or stalled after investors faced challenges.
Strict housing rules under the city's successive master plans’ zoning regulations made it too expensive for residents in this category to own homes while equally making it hard for owners of existing housing stock to do maintenance or upgrade. Many people without homes continue to live at the mercy of landlords and soaring rent costs.
The high cost of living this creates push many to peri-urban suburbs in search of affordable accommodation albeit spending a significant sum of their income on movement to and from town.
At the current pace of urban demography, the government needs to address the pressing demand for affordable housing by piling pressure on contractors to deliver the houses as per the agreements signed.
There is room for innovation and contractors be encouraged to adopt cost effective modern building technologies to bring down cost of building houses.
The government could also consider redeveloping structures in unplanned settlements across Kigali without necessarily moving people.
The latter not only exacerbates the housing crisis, but also imposes a huge bill on taxpayers to compensate the dwellers, disrupting living standards at a time even when there are no ready investors to make use of the expropriated space time.
This was the case for Kimicanga and lower Kiyovu slums. The upgrade of parts of Nyamirambo under the Agatare project is a good example of how best settlements upgrade with lesser expropriations help solve the housing crisis.