Editorial: Helping civil servants get affordable housing commendable, but…

When Rwanda Social Security Board first announced that it was embarking on a major housing project, it was welcomed with open arms as people rushed to register.

The euphoria of owning an “affordable” house in one of Kigali’s most exclusive neighbourhood soon melted away in disappointment when the prices were unveiled.

The “affordable” houses were more accessible to multimillionaires as the cheapest two-bedroom apartment cost $125,000 (Rwf 108 million). A four-bedroom apartment went for $215,600 (Rwf 187 million.

There was a lot of uproar, even the government sought to known the logic of building high-end homes when what was most urgent was low-cost housing that could meet the pockets of the middle and low class citizens.

With low uptake, the project was turning into an expensive white elephant forcing the developers to go back to the drawing board so as to try and recoup some of their losses and address the original purpose of the project; making the houses affordable.

They have done just that; they drastically reduced the prices for civil servants. The two bedroom apartment will now be available for Rwf 63 million (from 108 million). A 20-year financing plan was also included at 11% interest. Not exceeding the rank of Head of Department. But the sums seem not to add up.

Monthly instalments for the Rwf 63 million would be between RWf 585,000 and 650,000. According to 2017 figures, the highest earning Director in the Ministry of Public Service and Labour had a gross salary of Rwf 814,962 (Basic= Rwf 547,000).

Even though everything possible has been done to help first-time home owners, it will take a lot of acrobatics to meet the payments. A possible solution is to help civil servants with some form of investment scheme that could supplement their salaries, otherwise they might resort to dubious machinations to make ends meet.