Rwanda has made impressive strides towards building a resilient nation with a citizenry that have access to quality infrastructure, and serviced with impersonalised services. The vision and goals are enshrined in the country’s blueprint to development, the Vision 2020 development plan.
One area that is seen as instrumental in ensuring that access to quality infrastructure and services which are the ingredients of building knowledge based economy is quality settlement as alluded to by Rwanda’s human settlement policy of 2009.
Among others, the human settlement policy indicates a deliberate decision to encourage communal settlements with the main anticipated impact of ensuring ease to provide quality services and infrastructure to the country’s population in a swifter less costing manner.
Since 2004, ensuring well planned human settlement has been an ongoing effort and tremendous impacts in both rural and urban Rwanda have been registered.
Embedded in this planned human settlement is Rwanda’s targeted urbanisation of 35% of the population by the year 2020 as highlighted in both the 20 year long vision 2020 and in the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies conceived thereafter to fast track development and ensure that the country’s dream is attained.
Already, the population of people living within Kigali City alone has already surpassed 10% of the total Rwandan population of 12 million.
The City of Kigali was estimated to have 1.3 million residents as of end 2015.
To understand the City’s human settlement needs and inform quality planning thereof,a housing market survey conducted by City Authorities and released in 2013 indicated an enormous housing gap in the Rwandan capital.
The survey highlighted that for Kigali to be able to house its expected 2 million residents in 2022, 458,265 quality housing units had to be supplied to various categories of the city’s residents.
Taking stock of the quality of existing house units in the City, a total 114,197 house units including those in good condition and those that could be upgraded was indicated to exist.
This means a housing gap of 344,068 housing units in the Rwandan capital alone.
To contribute towards addressing this challenge, the Rwanda Social Security Board has embarked on various projects expected to reduce the housing gap and get more city dwellers into high quality housing.
One such project that is currently dominating City of Kigali’s landscape is the Vision City estate.
Conceived as part of the solution to the housing demand, the Vision City estate as envisaged will have housing that meets the needs of various market segments.
But given the project’s enormous size, the project’s implementation has been phased to assure quality is delivered as promised.
The first phase of the project with over 500 units expected to be constructed was embarked on in 2013 and is currently nearing completion. After the first phase of the mega project, the next phase as envisaged in the implementation plan will be to construct a city centre that will bring all services closer to this urban settlement.
To capture where the implementation stands, the perspectives of the developer and what to expect, Eric Gasana, RSSB’s Director of investments responded to the following questions.
Qn: How far are with the development of Vision City estate and what haveyou accomplished on this mega project so far?
Gasana: Works are currently drawing to a conclusion with focus on landscaping and installation of fixtures and finishes.
As envisaged in Vision City’s plan for the first phase of development, 504 units consisting of villas, townhouses, and apartments will soon be available for occupation by the residents of Kigali City.
Qn: The first phase had been expected to be ready for launch in the last quarter of this year, what led to the delayed completion?
Gasana: Taking into consideration the commencement of construction of Vision City Phase 1 at the end of 2013, given the scale and unique nature of our project, most of the construction materials initially required importation, as they were limited or lacking in the local market, the project is still within expected time frame for its completion.
Concerning the construction materials, we have observed, however, that this is slowly changing with the integrated initiatives to promote local material and local production. We hope that this will positively impact our future phases of the project.
To a certain extent, access to skilled labour had been a hindrance to the speedy progress of our project but we are happy to say that our site now employs between 1,500 to 3,000 skilled and semi skilled local labourers with a good proportion of women and youth included.
Qn:Have sales on this estate begun and if yes, how much have you sold so far?
Gasana:Yes, sales on the neighbourhood have begun and we have close to 20% in bookings.
Qn:As a lead investor in Rwanda and a key player in the real estate business, what innovative ideas should Rwandans be looking out for in the vision city? Share with us some of the major innovative features of the vision city estate.
Gasana: Vision City is a comprehensive neighbourhood that is one of its kind in the region and that offers a variety of uniquely designed housing typologies ranging from villas to apartments. These are complimented by amenities and infrastructure that do not exist elsewhere in that kind of scale.
Vision City addresses the shortage of quality housing in Kigali by providing a clustered neighbourhood with all the basic infrastructures and amenities needed to live in comfort and convenience: asphalted and lighted streets, pedestrian walkways, fibre connectivity, open public and recreational spaces and a town centre providing access to basic amenities such as banking, shopping and entertainment within less than a kilometre away from home without requiring the use of motorised transport.
Qn: Rwandanslike other African people are accustomed to living on large parcels of land independently. Will they be welcoming to the idea of living together in communalised settlement? What has your research indicated?
Gasana: The benefits of living in a communal settlement (planned neighbourhood) far outweigh the need to live individually and this is very evident not only in the number of Rwandan buyers interested in purchasing homes in Vision City but also overall in the City of Kigali you see a forward thinking drive towards creation of neighbourhoods rather than building of individual houses.
Enhanced and advanced state of the art infrastructure, better use of land, access to public amenities and safe public spaces are
guaranteed to homeowners in Vision City.
Qn: What has the government’s role been in simplifying access to infrastructure in this mega estate development? Has RSSB had to meet all the broadband, roads, and other infrastructure costs in this project?
Gasana: Vision City offers a comprehensive neighbourhood. By owning a home there, one has all the basic infrastructures and amenities needed to live in comfort and convenience.In all these, other government institutions responsible for ensuring quality access to each set of infrastructure have been cooperative and supportive and we do not expect less in the next phases of the project.
Qn:With phase one nearing completion; when will the next phase begin and how do you plan on accomplishing in it?
Gasana: Our immediate priority is to commence development of the Town Centre, which will avail the complementary amenities to the neighbourhood.
Qn: What role do you see vision city playing in the next generation of real estate development in Rwanda and Kigali in particular?
Gasana: Vision City sets the exemplary standards of creation of comprehensive neighbourhoods and we believe that this will translate into other upcoming residential developments. The future for Rwanda is organised residential neighbourhoods with optimal use of building space and that’s what Vision city is targeting to showcase at its best quality.
Building synergies for affordable housing projects paying off
As the stewards of Rwanda’s pension funds and other social security schemes, RSSB has as one major responsibility ensuring that the funds it manages are sustainable. It is within this context that the institution invests in a lucrative high end real estate project the size of Vision City owing to the existing appetite for Rwandan property and the promise of good returns.
Nonetheless, RSSB is cognisant of its role in the social welfare of the Rwandan community.
With the returns from highly profitable property, the Rwanda Social Security Board invests in other projects but with potentially high impact on the quality of living in the country.
This spans investments in building quality office spaces for various districts including the country’s rural areas where other investors would shy from. Also, this includes RSSB’s investment in affordable housing.
One such affordable housing project that has been developed is the Batsinda estate which was constructed by RSSB to support in the resettlement of households that had been relocated from slums in the Rwandan capital.
Currently, RSSB has embarked on the development of Batsinda Affordable Housing phase II.
“Development of BatsindaII Affordable Housing Project is already underway. We have started excavation of roadways and drainage channels as well as building platforms,” Gasana shares.
The project is expected to run for 27 months with a total of 561 units planned to be constructed at this site.
According to the aforementioned survey of 2013, the City of Kigali estimated that 12.6% of the housing demand of 344,068 are social housing units for households with a total monthly income of less than Frw33,000 (about USD50 in 2013 prices).
Through RSSB’s approach of building synergies, 700 social housing units are under development in Kigali city.
Besides,within the City of Kigali, RSSB’s contribution to solving housing demand and leading in addressing of urban settlement challenges extends to other parts of the country.
For instance, an affordable housing project has been conceived for the district of Nyagatare in Rwanda’s Eastern Province.
To implement this project and inform the institution’s future similar real estate developments, RSSB is engaging various partners so that the project can be implemented in a synergy.
“We hope to gain more from the partnerships that we are building both in terms of quality and sustainability of affordable housing projects.”
Asked whether there are successes to share concerning building synergies for implementation of affordable housing projects like in Nyagatare, Gasanasaid,
“For Nyagatare, we are in discussion with other stakeholders so that we put our strengths together for successful implementation of the project. We have for instance decided to revise our strategy together on how the units will be developed through the use of good technologies so that they are affordable and of satisfactory quality”.