EDITORIAL:Housing authority needs to borrow a leaf from “Visit Rwanda”

The issue of affordable urban housing has been haunting the government ever since DAY 1. All past housing developers have entered the market targeting the upper middle class.

That caused many Kigalians to move into unplanned neighbourhoods that soon began taking on slum-like features. Relocating those people has been a constant headache; the structures came up right under the very nose of city authorities. Now they want to be expropriated at today’s Kigali land market rates.

Those expropriated can’t afford building in Kigali so they have to move out to the city’s peripheries which sometimes takes them far from their places of work.

The country is in dire need of housing, having an annual deficit of over 30,000 units. At the moment, urban dwellers account to about 19 percent. That number is expected to double by 2024 so the situation is more than likely to deteriorate for the worst.

Spirits are high following the announcement that the construction of over 2,000 affordable housing units would begin next week. But that is just a drop in the ocean, even though Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) has called for expressions of interest in 21 housing projects in Kigali and other secondary cities.

RHA has made it clear, it does not want a repeat of the Rwanda Social Security Board’s housing developing debacle where it where it poured billions into building luxury villas that few could afford. Many turned out to be white elephants and prices had to be revised downwards several times as there were no takers.

RHA needs to work closely with RDB and mount a radical campaign to attract foreign investors in the sector. Some have already expressed interest but that is not enough. Attracting investors needs a similar dose of the “Visit Rwanda” campaign on top of appetizing incentives.