Plans to improve unplanned settlements in high gear
The New Times
By: James Karuhanga
01 January 2017

A plan first made public in October 2015 on how unplanned slum settlements can be turned into quality condos in accordance with the City of Kigali’s master plan is within reach, officials told The New Times yesterday.

The Mayor of Kigali, Monique Mukaruliza, and the Executive Director of Capital Markets Authority (CMA), Robert Mathu, say a consultant tasked with conducting the initial study had presented encouraging findings and stakeholders will sit in January and map the way forward.

“The consultant recently presented his report. But that was the first step. We now have to, among other things, find investors to help us address the issue of unplanned settlements,” Mukaruliza said.

“I am very optimistic because we have many people advocating for this project and, nowadays, people are really very sensitive about the issue of housing. Investors see no risk in this too.”

a financial scheme to enable slum dwellers to move into decent modern housing units

In October 2015, when officials first made public the notion of exploring ways to spearhead a financial scheme to enable slum dwellers to move into decent modern housing units, Fidele Ndayisaba, the then Mayor, said cities all over the world are built by real estate developers and not individual developers.

The City is looking to help its slum dwellers get modern housing in well-planned environments.

During the inaugural stakeholders’ meeting more than a year ago, bankers, real estate developers, architects and engineers discussed how existing unplanned settlements could be turned into sustainable condos with quality shelter in accordance with the City’s master plan.

“The consultant is coming back in January to see about progress. Stakeholders including the City of Kigali, the national housing authority, and others will sit and discuss implementation,” Mathu said.

“The study indicated that the project is feasible but it requires coordination by all concerned entities. There was optimism”.

Kigali has a population of about 1.2 million people, projected to reach 3.8 million by 2040.

Mathu said the role of capital markets was significant in addressing the financial challenges of the city’s housing project. Access to capital is one of the critical issues affecting long term viability of social and affordable housing in emerging countries, he said.

He noted that the study would look into the possibility of housing schemes that can utilise capital market structures to enable residents to upgrade to modern houses in line with City of Kigali master plan.

The CMA will mobilize long term capital through mobilization of people and institutions. Apart from providing legal and supervisory structures to enable free and easy movement of assets in terms of transferability, they will also ensure that governing structures and schemes that will be put in place are appropriate for investors.

Dr Darin Gunesekera, a realtor consultant who set up the Real Estate Exchange (REEL) in Sri Lanka, and was a capital markets advisor in Kenya in the past was engaged through IFC/ World Bank to study and develop the proposal for the novel scheme.

Social REITs

During the 2015 meeting, he explained a methodology called “Social REITs” for the scheme, which he noted has succeeded to convert unplanned settlements into regenerated planned parts of cities like in Sri Lanka and in the Philippines.

Highlighting scenarios in unplanned urban areas such as Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, Dr Gunesekera said a master plan has to be effected through equity in the capital markets plan.

According to the consultant, unplanned settlements means there is poor land-use but with planned settlement land is put to its maximum use.

The main idea is that even though slums might appear congested, the problem is not population density so much as it is poor land use. In this regard, it is believed that – as has been done in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere – a good architect can build a larger apartment that needs much less land and costs less to build.

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