Until October 31, New Vision will devote space to highlighting the plight of slum dwellers as well as profiling those offering selfless service to improve conditions in these areas. Today, JOEL OGWANG looks at how a housing policy is set to give people in slums better housing facilities.
DRENCHED in sweat, Joy Nambowa, 24, a resident of Kinawataka LCI zone in Nakawa Division, yawns as she rests on her veranda deeply lost in thought.
Her primary school-going sons, Musa and Ali soon return home for lunch. “Maama, nze sidayo kusomero nga siride (I will not go back to school this afternoon without lunch),” Ali says.
Nambowa’s husband, Ibrahim Lutalo and their five children live in a makeshift mud–and–wattle room with bedrooms created using mats.
“I would want my children to grow up in a better home. But I cannot do anything about it,” Lutalo says.
In Kinawataka nearly all the houses look similar. One would be forgiven for entering the wrong house. Boasting of about 400 residents, Kinawataka is one of the 10 sprawling slums in Kampala. Its existence has, over the years, been the subject of confrontation with National Environment Management Authority, accusing residents of encroaching on the Kinawataka wetlands.
“I have lived here with my children for 17 years. Where do they want us to go?” Wilbert Othieno wonders.
National housing status
The informal settlement in Kinawataka is not exclusive. It is a big Ugandan problem worsened by overcrowding as most households in Uganda accomodate five people on average. With a 34.1 million population 5.8 million in urban areas and 28.3 million in rural areas, the country has about 6.82 million households living in 6.2 million poor houses. Of these, 84% are temporary while 28% are constructed using traditional materials, according to the 2009/ 10 Uganda National Household Survey.
Mud–and–wattle dwellings constitute 46% while brick houses take up 51% and, at 73%, earth floors are dominant while cemented floors at 24%, iron-sheet roofed houses 63%, while grass–thatched housing constitute 35%, respectively. This creates a backlog of 1.6 million housing units comprising sub-standard structures not fit for human habitation, presenting a housing deficit of 211,000 in urban areas and about 1.3 million in rural areas, the national housing indicators, 2012-2020 shows.
Uganda has a permanent housing stock of 570,000 in urban and 400, 000 in rural areas and an existing housing stock of over one million in urban areas and about 5.2 million in rural areas that presents a scarcity of 105, 454 in the former and 505, 091 in the latter. However, it is estimated that the current production of new decent housing in urban areas is only 20,000 to 30, 000 units annually, giving a shortfall of over 120,000 units per year.
The projected housing need will be 931,000 in urban areas and over 3.5 million in rural areas. To meet the need, 448, 000 units will have to be constructed annually.
To improve housing conditions, the Government is in the final stages of developing- the National Housing Policy. It will, among other things, guide housing development, upgrade slums and prevention, repair and maintenance of existing housing stock.
The policy seeks to fast track the construction of units to meet the country’s 4.5 million housing needs by 2020.
“The draft policy will be tabled before parliament before it becomes a policy,” Agnes Kalibbala, the director of housing at the lands and housing ministry explains.
Why the policy
Following the UN General Assembly resolution of December 1987 on the International Year of Shelter for Homeless, the Government commenced the development of the strategy adopted in 1992.
As a result, the National Shelter Strategy was developed to guide housing sector. This is what has, for the past 20 years been a guiding document for the sector.
“We have been using a strategy to put in place an environment that enables people to access housing and cheap land,” Kalibbala says.
She adds that the Government is considering setting up satellite towns to decongest Kampala.
“We want to plan before building. Housing estates that come-up in the future should be well furnished with social amenities,” Kalibala says.
What to address
The policy will help Government to promote sustainable housing-for-all, ease land access and encourage land owners with limited means to develop their assets to enter joint ventures with investors.
“We expect positive development in Public-Private-Partnerships in the housing sector because the Government does not have resources to fund this,” Samuel Mabala, the commissioner of urban development says.
Daudi Migereko, the lands and housing minister, explains that to improve the conditions in slums. The Government is negotiating with land owners, tenants and developers.
“The Government is operationalising the condominium property law to ensure optimal usage of land by encouraging high-rise construction. This is in the spirit of saving land due to the high population growth rate,” he adds.
Why a viable housing sector?
Housing is a critical indicator of development. The World Bank estimates that every $1 invested in the housing sector generates an economy-wide multiplier effect of $5-$12.
Housing is a rich revenue source through property tax, premium and ground rent tax.
It also creates industries in production of building materials, creating employment and improving household income.
However, while Uganda’s housing sector contributes less than 5% of GDP and Kenya’s is 25%.The policy seeks to close this gap.