Rwanda: Govt Issues New Guidelines to Reduce Informal Settlements

25 October 2021

Rwanda Land Management and Use Authority (RLMUA) has issued fresh guidelines that will be a major tool in ensuring that over 61 per cent of the country's population currently living in informal settlements are relocated to well-planned settlements.

Espérance Mukamana, the Director General of RLMUA, told The New Times that the guidelines will ensure that different stakeholders are involved before a settlement site is selected.

The stakeholders include members of the community, landowners, real estate developers, engineers, land surveyors, urban planners, researchers, and local leaders among others to ensure all amenities are appropriated before the site is agreed on.

"Lack of clear guidelines has led to the increase of informal settlements in the country. These new guidelines will help in the national master plan implementation and developing detailed physical plans," she said.

With the new guidelines, prior to selection of a settlement site, challenges like water scarcity, electricity access, poor drainage system, public facilities like markets, schools and health centres will be appropriated.

She said some areas in the outskirts of Kigali despite being newly developed, were fast turning into informal settlements giving an example of Muyumbu, Runda and Karumuna, because they were developed without properly designed physical plan and without amenities.

"The challenge is that people start with building houses before basic infrastructures are set up. The value of plots in well-planned settlements could also increase if the guidelines are well implemented," she said.

Considering that the designing settlements has a cost implication, Mukamana said that prospective homeowners will have to organize themselves and raise the required amount.

"The guidelines will be implemented with community participation. It is a kind of home-grown solution in reducing informal settlements whereby the residents can contribute to improve their neighbourhood and increase value of their land," she noted.

Mukamana said that the new guidelines will also ensure compliance to environmental protection regulations.

Need for detailed plans

Meanwhile, Mukamana said that after the general nationwide master plan that was unveiled recently, there is need for detailed physical plans indicating where settlements should be set up.

Physical plans indicate settlement sites and where basic infrastructure should be constructed.

"These guidelines will help to develop detailed physical plans and guide communities," she said.

She said such plans will follow district master plans, explaining that master plans in secondary cities have already got their own plans and that other districts master plans will soon be developed.

"All this must go along with the national policy of establishing grouped settlement sites (Imidugudu)," she said, adding that this will go a long way in addressing housing demand in the country.

The country's population is projected to increase nearly two-fold by 2050; from the current 12 million to 22 million people, according to estimates from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR).

Rwanda's population density will increase from 415 inhabitants per square kilometer in 2012 to 1,000 inhabitants in 2050.

According to estimates by Rwanda Housing Authority, the country needs at least 5.5 million housing units up from 2.5 million units in 2019 to accommodate an estimated 22 million people in 2050.

"The Ministry of Environment has recently taken over the supervision of master plans development and implementation across the country, according to a new law, to ensure sustainable use of land," she said.

Experts' views

Experts who talked to The New Times said the new guidelines are answers to different problems.

Alexandre Nzirorera, a Rwandan engineer, who runs Nziza Training Academy that trains engineers said that the new guidelines will correct a lot that has been going wrong in real estate and improving settlements.

"Lack of such guidelines has been incentivizing corruption and construction without permits and because there were no physical plans, all these have led to the increase of informal settlements that have no basic amenities," he said.

He added: "That is why you hear of houses being pulled down either because they were built illegally or because they are found in the way of other public infrastructure that should have been in place before the house was built."

He added the guidelines were also needed considering that the new master plan both national and Kigali city have new changes in terms of improving informal settlements.

"The new master plan is flexible allowing people to construct different types of houses in four residential zones and this had not been considered before," he said.

Jean Baptiste Nsengiyumva, a senior researcher in different sectors including urban planning currently working with Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR-Rwanda), said that due to rural urban migration, population increase in cities could trigger more informal settlements if such guidelines were not developed.

Lack of both skills and financial capacity to implement master plans and constraints by government to resettle those in unplanned settlements are among challenges that new guidelines should address.

"Poor mindset of dwellers also causes informal settlements. To address all issues, there is a need to come up with housing options for the poor, strengthening secondary and satellite cities, cohousing, education, awareness among others," he noted, adding expediting the implementation and enforcement of existing policies and new guidelines could help much.

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