A block of eight housing units that was set up in Muhanga District has remained unoccupied for about three years after failing to get buyers. Now, the district says it is considering offering it to the vulnerable families, if they continue failing to attract clientele. Muhanga District Mayor, Jacqueline Kayitare, told The New Times that the units were set up as part of an ‘affordable’ housing project the district started implementing in partnership with Rwanda Housing Authority back in 2017 after the district became a secondary city. The block is located in the district’s Shyogwe Sector, in Ruli Cell. The project, which cost over Rwf146 million, has eight units, each valued at Rwf19 million, Kayitare indicated. It is a one-story apartment building with four housing units on the ground floor and another four on the first floor. Each unit has three bedrooms, a living room and a washroom, according to information from the district. It also has an outside kitchen and another toilet, it added. While appearing before the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday, September 16, Muhanga District officials were asked why the housing units remain unoccupied, and the way forward to solve the issue. This is one of the public asset management concerns that were raised by the report of the Auditor General for the fiscal year which ended on June 30, 2021. Kayitare said that Rwanda Housing Authority initiated the project as a pilot so that when it becomes successful, it would be extended to other secondary cities to improve their settlements. Not ready for apartments? Kayitare said that the major constraint the project faced is the mentality of Muhanga residents, where it has been difficult to make them understand the project and its role in improving settlement in the fast-growing town. When some district dwellers expressed concern that the price of the houses is high, she said, in 2019, the district requested banks to help them by reducing interest rates on loans they could use to get the houses, as well as set a long repayment period. The banks agreed to offer loans with 11 per cent interest rate [against the average bank loan interest rate of 16 per cent in the country], with a repayment period of 10 years, she added. But still, there were no buyers. MP Damien Nyabyenda, member of the Committee on National Budget and Patrimony wanted to know which category of people those housing units were targeting, and what made them lack buyers, wondering whether it is the design or the location. Kayitare said that the district was focusing on the private sector (businesspeople), and salaried workers who could get income to buy such houses. After exploring all the means to help the people own such houses, she said, the district made an inquiry to establish why they were not interested in those houses. “We found out that the issue was not financial means, because there are [residential] houses which cost more than the Rwf19 million, rather, the residents have not yet adopted that housing model – living in shared buildings. That is the difficulty we faced,” she said, pointing out that they prefer a single-family detached home (meant for a single-family occupancy). And, she told lawmakers that the district incurs maintenance costs for those houses. Option to offer them to the vulnerable Meanwhile, Kayitare said that every year, the district has to invest in building houses for the vulnerable people who do not have [decent] accommodation. MP Jean Damascene Murara, PAC member, said that it would be okay to change the houses into residences for the vulnerable citizens, if in fact there is no one who wants to buy them. “But, did you consider it [that option] after all possible ones had failed, he asked the district leaders, adding that in the previous PAC hearings, its Mayor said they were looking for ways to sell the houses in question. The district, Kayitare said, wrote to the Rwanda Housing Authority requesting that those houses can be handed to the needy. “It is in that context we thought that instead of having our people live in inappropriate places, which requires that the Government constructs houses for them, yet we have other houses that are lying idle, we could give them to the needy,” she said.