Bugesera District has temporarily suspended issuing construction permits for both residential and commercial buildings, citing encroachment on arable land from commercial and residential property developers.
District officials told The New Times that they have suspended all housing related construction works in the district pending the review of the current masterplan for Nyamata town and the ongoing process to come up with a physical plan for settlement in rural parts of the district.
“It became evident to us that Bugesera is developing at a fast pace as a secondary city. Construction projects were the order of the day, which is good, but it should be guided (by the masterplan),” the district Mayor, Richard Mutabazi, said.
The Mayor said the process of issuing construction permits will resume in two months and that ongoing construction projects will not be affected.
In 2014, the district issued 112 construction permits in Nyamata town while 210 permits were issued in 2015, according to the District Engineer, Christian Umuhoza, who also heads the one-stop-centre.
In 2016, they issued 243 permits, 331 in 2017 and 390 so far this year.
The district resolved to issue construction permits after it established that people were using arable land to construct homes, something they said could potentially lead to low levels of agricultural output.
Bugesera, where the country’s largest airport is being constructed, is increasingly becoming a strategic area for investors and individuals alike.
Property developers and hoteliers have targeted it for investment as they seek to tap from the anticipated airport traffic while individuals looking for affordable land to build residential houses have found it to be a safe bet for their savings.
This has prompted the district intervention to streamline land use in order to strike the balance between preserving the land for agriculture and encouraging investments in non-agricultural projects such as real estate development.
“We will be very strict on recommendations for settlement land and very helpful for investors in apartments such that many people can live on a small land and we remain with enough land for agriculture,” Mutabazi said.
He added that; “Misguided constructions have been mushrooming from Nyamata town to Ruhuha, which has arable land. Local leaders complained about unsustainable construction methods.”
Bugesera has a masterplan for Nyamata town, which the mayor says is not detailed enough.
“The masterplan was for a normal town not for a burgeoning a vibrant small city as projections show us today” he said.
The district instituted ad hoc committees at the village level to administer physical plans for settlements.
“Residents will decide where to settle and our role will be to give them technical support of the mapping,” the Mayor said, adding that, “We won’t expropriate anyone but residents themselves will see how to value their plots and compensate those whose plots will be encroached on for public facilities.”
The process to review the masterplan and physical plans for rural areas is almost complete, he said.
Private sector operators have requested the district to expedite the review of the masterplan.
Eugene Higiro, the president of the Private Sector Federation in the district, said that the district consulted over the matter.
“The only concern is that it (the district) is taking long to finish the exercise, which can affect construction projects in the area,” he said.