City of Kigali's priority is affordable housing - mayor

The City of Kigali might enjoy envious fame for its cleanliness and security, but the issue of affordable housing for dwellers continues to be the Achilles heel for authorities.
An aerial view of Umucyo Estate in Gaculiro,  Gasabo District, Kigali. (File)
An aerial view of Umucyo Estate in Gaculiro, Gasabo District, Kigali. (File)

The City of Kigali might enjoy envious fame for its cleanliness and security, but the issue of affordable housing for dwellers continues to be the Achilles heel for authorities.

City Mayor Monique Mukaruliza said, if Kigali has anything to learn from other cities across the world, it has to be how best to avail affordable housing units to the people of Kigali.

“That is our prime focus,” she said on Wednesday.

Mukaruliza told a news conference that if Kigali overcomes this “burden,” then cases of informal housing will be minimal, consequently enabling the city to easily align its development footprints into the conceptual master plan.

The mayor was speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing four-day seventh edition of the World Bank Metropolitan Strategic Planning Laboratory (MetroLab), which started on Wednesday at the City Hall.

The event, which is being held in Africa for the second time, has brought together several urban experts from cities around the globe to discuss sustainable development, growth and urban management.

Since its inception, the MetroLab programme has been hosted by Rio (Brazil), Greater Paris (France), Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania), Seoul (Republic of Korea), Mumbai (India) and New York (US).

The World Bank-sponsored forum will also provide a platform for solutions; as cities share knowledge about urban management and development through site visits, thematic presentations and case studies.

“As much as we have a lot of best practices in the City of Kigali to share with the participating urban experts, we also want to learn from them and the most needed knowledge from this is how best we can develop affordable housing for the people of Kigali,” said Mukaruliza.

“We have city dwellers who live within high-risk zones, as well those who live in informal settlements. With the expertise of MetroLab participants, we expect to have a solution towards affordable housing, finding a way to check on the cost of plot of land in the city, among other key issues that will encourage formal settlement in the City of Kigali.”

A recent study conducted by the City of Kigali in collaboration with the Ministry of Infrastructure and the European Union (EU) indicated that Kigali could face a housing deficit of up to 350,000 residential units in the next 10 years if nothing is done to address the current shortage.

This housing deficit arises from the growing rate of rural-urban migration, currently at about 4.8 per cent, creating need for more houses. The demand for decent homes in the city and up-country is also driven by the high rate of urbanisation, according to experts.

With urbanisation growing at 4.1 per cent, and almost 17 per cent of the population living in urban areas, like Kigali, Musanze and Huye, investments in real estate development are essential to ensure sustainable supply of decent homes countrywide.

Industry experts say, as the government targets 35 per cent rate of urbanisation by 2020, it is critical to attract more investors into the real estate sector to meet the increasing demand of housing in the country.

How to get around it

Jiyon Shin, a senior researcher at the urban planning advisory group for Korea’s Capital Seoul Metropolitan, said the issue of affordable housing is even evident in developed countries—suggesting that a public private partnership can serve as the quickest solution.

“Affordable housing is an issue for Seoul as well, but we believe building proper housing for citizens—in terms of having both small units and medium units for families – will bridge the gap. We are also encouraging the private sector to invest in affordable housing for citizens by putting into consideration the minimum wage of the majority,” said Shin.

He added that the Seoul government has to offer needed incentives like infrastructure to facilitate the development of affordable housing and offering Full Area Ratio Incentive (how high you can build the structure).

According to the Kigali city master plan, at least 43,436 social houses and 186,163 affordable houses will required annually, reflecting 54 per cent housing demand.

Rwanda Housing Authority’s (RHA) Director General Didier Sagashya said providing affordable housing “will not happen in a day” but with ongoing projects, affordable homes in Kigali might be realised sooner than later.

“There are about 500 affordable housing units under construction in Batsida, with some other affordable units to be built in Busanza, Nyamirambo and Ndera sectors among others, totaling over 4000 affordable housing units that we hope will bridge the initial housing gap,” Eng. Sagashya said.

He added that RHA is in discussion with other stakeholders to chart ways on how financial institutions can slash bank loan interests for estate developers to encourage building of affordable homes.

“Everyone belongs to a certain range of affordable house. We are looking at houses that can cater for people who pay on a monthly basis an amount between Rwf60,000 to Rwf300,000,” he said.

Yasser el-Gammal, the World Bank country manager, said by Kigali hosting the MetroLab, the country, its capital and secondary cities will greatly benefit from the knowledge exchange and sharing of best practices from regions around the world, as well as showcasing the unique results achieved for sustainable urbanisation in Rwanda.

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