Real estate developers urged to integrate affordable housing with social services

The social mix or integration of affordable houses and services is a critical principle for new urban planning in order to ensure sustainability, an official has said.
A view of Sunset Villas in Kibagabaga, Kigali. (File)
A view of Sunset Villas in Kibagabaga, Kigali. (File)

The social mix or integration of affordable houses and services is a critical principle for new urban planning in order to ensure sustainability, an official has said.

Vincent Kitio, chief of the urban energy unit at the UN agency for human settlements and sustainable urban development, was yesterday presenting strategies to integrate sustainable city planning into a roadmap of a sustainable energy future for East Africa on the final day of the first Sustainable Energy Forum for East Africa 2018, in Kigali.

In urban planning a social mix refers to the availability of houses in different price ranges and tenures in any given neighbourhood to accommodate people with different incomes.

Kitio, who works for UN Habitat’s Urban Basic Services Branch, was categorical that things are being done the wrong way.

He advised that developers “should not just build for the rich because you will create insecurity as people will go to where they can afford.”

The time for owning land, individually, in Africa is over, he said, emphasising the importance of proper and better planning to cater for the social mix.

He said: “We are not planning for slum communities properly. Look at it carefully; in new urban housing there is no provision for the housekeeper, the driver, the cleaner and others. There is need to ensure that everybody is included, and it is about government being involved.”

UN-Habitat supports countries to develop urban planning methods and systems to address current urbanisation challenges such as population growth, urban sprawl, poverty, inequality, pollution, and congestion.

UN-Habitat’s five principles for new urban planning also include: adequate space for streets and public space in an efficient street network (50% for public spaces and 50% for buildings); mixed land use (combining economic and residential activities); adequate density and compact pattern; and connectivity or linking different cities spaces.

During the session on sustainable city development in East Africa, Kitio also said that promoting sustainable cities requires a multi-sectoral approach including six priorities areas: urban planning with focus on density; energy efficient building (green building); urban mobility with reliable and affordable public transportation; clean energy generation from local sources; waste management and resource recovery (efficient waste municipal waste management); and resource efficiency in commercial and industrial sectors, as well as in the generation and transportation of energy.

According to Kitio, for appropriate architectural design there is need to design architecture that is suitable to the local context and embrace environmentally sound building design strategies.

Tareq Emtairah, the director of UNIDO’s department of energy, observed that part of the challenge goes back to the degree at which local governments are empowered to deal with the planning challenge.

Dima Reda, president and co-founder of Nataij Consulting, a boutique consulting firm, highlighted challenges for urban sustainability, including “constraints of underdeveloped transportation infrastructure.”

Her baseline study of urban sustainability in the East African Community cited issues such as high cost of doing business and lack of infrastructure or technology for basic services as some of the other challenges for urban sustainability in the region.

She said: “It is also important to facilitate a dialogue among local, national, and regional governments and connect officials in specific ministries and cities to co-develop project proposals.”


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