The City of Kigali (CoK) will in September open the gates to a 28 unit housing block located in Nyarugenge district to families that have been at risk due to their proximity to the Mpazi drainage system. The block is part of a chain of others that are being developed in the area to provide safer homes for the people who live along the drainage system. Janvier Musonera shows what is left of his family home near Mpazi drainage in the Kigali suburb of Kimisagara, on April 17, 2020, after heavy rains caused an overflow of the drainage and destroyed several houses in the area. / Photo: Gad Nshimiyimana. Residents and business owners along this drainage system all the way down to Nyabugogo area have in the past called on the city authorities to come to their rescue as especially during the rainy season when waste and rainwater from homes in the sectors of Nyamirambo, Gitega and Kimisagara overflows, putting their lives and property at risk. Speaking to The New Times, the head of urban planning in the City of Kigali, Marie Solange Muhirwa said that the project aims at improving the current living conditions in unplanned settlement of Mpazi in Nyarugenge District of Kigali through ‘rehousing’, transforming the area into a more habitable place. The area is being upgraded into a settlement infrastructure that will have improved access roads, water and power supply, sanitation and proper waste management facilities. There are different kinds of units ranging from one to three bedrooms. Mpazi homes are near a drainage system and when it rains, it floods. The pilot project was aimed at building habitable homes for the people around this area while at the same time ensuring their safety. “The success of the 10 in 1 pilot project gave us the push we needed and we immediately started to source funding. We are putting final touches on the 28 unit block and we expect the beneficiaries to move in, in September,” she said. How it works Muhirwa explained that the project involves contribution of land from the residents on which the blocks are built. “Their contribution is the land on which the block can be built and the city council then does the rest. For instance, this 28 unit block is being built on a consolidated land provided by seven families,” she said. The pilot phase was composed of ten units which were built on land provided by three families. Upon completion, the city authorities consider the size of the land provided by each family and a corresponding unit is provided. Any units left are handed over to families that are deemed more vulnerable than the others. There are different kinds of units ranging from one to three bedrooms. “We consider the size of the land the person offered. However, we have had cases where people have chosen to take for example a one room apartment to live in and another one to rent out instead of for example a three room apartment,” she said. She explained that the homes are occupied by vendors, cleaners, market workers and many others whose services keep the city of Kigali running on a day to day basis. “These are the people that run our everyday lives and keeping them safe and closer to the city is a calculated move. Without them, this city would be very expensive for many,” she said. Next phase Muhirwa explained that as soon as the block is occupied, the city of Kigali will then embark on the construction of another two blocks that will each have an additional 28 units. The project kicks off in October. She explained that the long term plan is to build such units the entire Gitega and Kimisagara areas along the drainage system with a precautionary 20 meters buffer zone between the drainage and the homes to ensure safety. She said that the success of the pilot and the current phases has attracted positive reviews from residents in the area who are all now keen to be part of the project. She said that a decision to directly involve the locals, prioritising them when offering site jobs, has brought so many on board. “We do not have any mobilisation challenges. The dream of a better home, the site employment and the fact that we are using 100 percent Made-In-Rwanda materials, has really created a sense of ownership and more and more people want in on the project,” she said. A Swiss NGO called SKAT provides technical support and supplies the technology used to ensure homes are completed at an affordable cost. The same organization built the pilot block. Christensia Ntabumvayino, a beneficiary of the project, says that the new homes will solve the stress that comes with the rainy season. “It would flood everywhere. It was very scary and stressful. We have been looking at the modern structure coming up and we are excited that it is ours. I trust the government. Its plans for us are always positive,” she said. In Kigali City, there is a shortage of over 30,000 dwelling units out of 31,279 units in demand every year, studies show. With urbanization expected to rise to 35 per cent urban by 2024, the housing demand is expected to rise further in coming years necessitating more real estate firms to invest in affordable housing to meet the demand. The Ministry of Infrastructure says that more real estate firms ought to invest in affordable housing to meet the demand for shelter that is projected at 310,000 housing units by 2032. Currently 217,000 units are needed in the country.