Panel Five: Supply of Affordable Housing

Esther Mutambo, DG of the Rwandan Housing Authority, opened the presentation with the government’s sector strategic plan to guide urban development. While Kigali is the main point of focus, attention is also being paid to secondary cities to lessen the pressure on Kigali. With Kigali’s population set to grow to 3.8 million people in the next 20 years, housing is a major need. However, at the current rate of progress Rwanda can only afford to house 1 million people and the government is making efforts to meet the shortfall and supply to targeted groups.

Dr Antjie Ilberg from MINIFARA shared a draft policy which is being developed and whose number one concern is to formulate policies aimed at providing affordable housing. The policy hopes to address a number of challenges including land availability, access to finance, the high cost of construction as well as the quality of construction. The policy also hopes to explore different financing options such as cooperative finance, mortgages and private investments. Furthermore, the policy would like to offer various incentives to attract investments in housing development which will include import, VAT and income tax exemptions for the construction sector. The issues of integrated planning at national and district level to ensure interventions are coordinated through a one stop centre will also be addressed.

Vivian Kayitesi from the Rwanda Development Board commented that the Government has reduced a lot of processes on construction permits though financing still remains a big issue. She noted the establishment of a cement plant which will reduce the cost of construction as well as government considerations to manufacture building materials locally.

Jane Weru of Akiba Mashinani Trust shared important experiences from Kenya. The general indications are that access to finance for housing has remained a huge challenge even in Kenya with banks asking for collateral and charging very high interest rates. Rwanda will need to prepare for this.

Ira Peppercorn’s (World Bank) presentation gave an international experience and perspective on urban housing development. According to him, Rwanda stands a better chance at succeeding because the leadership seems to have a clear vision. However, Rwanda’s low income levels means that focusing on home ownership through construction and mortgages may be unaffordable for most Rwandans. Therefore Ira recommends that a focus on rental housing could be a helpful alternative. Ira also observed that supply of housing does not necessary mean building new houses; government can be more supportive to small scale owners with rental units, allow people to formalise their houses, and invest in cooperative housing by calling people to do things together.

Tsedale Mamo shared the Ethiopian experience on housing development. Their government has been offering a lot of support to private sector and small scale operators in various ways including capacity building, finance and upgrading of skills and infrastructure development. Clear policy direction is essential for success. Policies of land acquisition, ownership, sources and types of finance for housing, all need to be made explicit.

Fred Owambo from Hydraform talked about their technology which is an example of innovations which meet these challenges by building more cheaply and using unskilled labour.