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On April 26, 2018, the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR)-Rwanda in collaboration with the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) based in Nairobi, Kenya, organised the second Utafiti Sera (Research-Policy) Stakeholders’ Forum on Urban Governance and City Transformation in Rwanda, bringing together over 50 participants to discuss affordable housing in Kigali at the Marasa Umubano Hotel.

The forum on affordable housing was a follow-up on the first forum on Urban Governance and City Transformation, which was held on January 18, 2018 at the same venue and brought together over 40 participants from the government institutions, civil society, development partners, academia, research and the private sector representatives to discuss urban governance in Rwanda.

In the first forum, affordable housing in Kigali was cited as one of the most pressing issues in urban governance and city transformation and participants selected it as the topic for discussion during the second forum.

The Utafiti Sera (Research-Policy-community) forums are held as part of the project of : “Utafiti Sera on Urban Governance and City Transformation : The Case of Rwanda” being implemented by IPAR-Rwanda with funding from PASGR. The project in Rwanda is part of the regional project on “Urban Governance and Turning African Cities Around in Nairobi, Kigali and Addis Ababa” which is implemented by PASGR and local partner institutions in Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda with financial support from the Hewlett Foundation.

Overview Of Housing Market In Kigali

While opening the forum, IPAR-Rwanda Executive Director, Ms. Eugenia Kayitesi, noted that forum’s objective was to share available evidence on housing sector in Kigali with a focus on demand and initiatives of affordable housing implemented by the government of Rwanda, major challenges of delivering low-cost houses and possible solutions that could be put forward. Available evidence backed by research highlights that Kigali is experiencing acute housing needs accelerated by sharp demand for affordable dwelling units.

A study on “Housing Market Demand, Housing Finance and Housing Preferences for the City of Kigali” conducted by Planet Consortium in 2012 estimated that Kigali needed 108,803 dwelling units to replace the same number of houses that were in poor conditions thus making them uninhabitable. The study estimated that Kigali’s annual demand for new houses was around 31,279 dwelling units while supply was estimated at between 800 and 1,000 new dwelling units annually, indicating acute deficit.

The same study estimated that the total housing needs in Kigali are projected to be 458,265 dwelling units by 2022. To meet the projected housing needs, the study proposed four different housing categories based on household income and financing capacities. These categories include : Social Housing category which represented 12.62% of housing needs for new dwelling units ; Affordable housing representing 54.11% of housing needs for new dwelling units ; Mid-range housing representing 32.80% of new dwelling units ; and Premium housing representing 0.47% of new dwelling units.

In terms of human population growth, the study showed that Kigali’s population was on the phenomenal increase, toping 1,059,000 people in 2011 and it was projected to reach 1,957,321 people by 2020, 3,059,457 people by 2030 and 5,347,178 people by 2040.

Challenges To Meeting Housing Demand In Kigali

Kigali’s soaring needs for housing emanate from a host of challenges, as indicated during the forum. According to Dr. Aime Tsinda, a Senior Research Fellow at IPAR-Rwanda, some factors hindering delivery of houses in Kigali include : high rates of urbanisation and population growth, limited proper monitoring and evaluation of public housing policies and programs, lack of easy access to land and other housing inputs and the high cost of imported building materials.

Dr Tsinda further noted that despite challenges facing the housing industry in Kigali in general, there were challenges specific to delivery of affordable houses. Among them, he noted, include limited supply of low-cost houses, high cost of building materials which make the cost of finished houses unaffordable, limited building technologies and high cost of financing as a result of high interest rates, topography constraints and restrictive planning regulations which make it very difficult as well as costly to increase the supply of low-cost houses.

During the forum, participants further highlighted additional challenges to the delivery of affordable or low-cost houses and proposed solutions to address them.

Some of the challenges that were highlighted during the discussions include : Kigali City Master plan whose implementation limits people to use expensive construction materials ; Lack of market assessment before the implementation of housing projects( lack of target groups) ; High cost of land which, when added to that of building materials result into expensive finished houses ; Limited community involvement in housing policies and projects’ design and implementation ; Limited focus on building for rental housing which leads to very-high rental prices and the mismatch between affordable housing schemes and socio-economic categorisation of the population( Ubudehe) which makes majority of the built houses unaffordable to many potential occupants.

Possible Solutions

According to Dr. Aime Tsinda, a number of decisions have to be taken to increase the supply of affordable houses in Kigali. Some of them include : Identifying the appropriate building technologies to use in construction of low-cost houses through the use of locally made building materials such as mud-bricks, compressed earth blocks, iron bars, roofing materials and cement to make finished houses affordable ; Attracting more foreign companies to Rwanda such as Strawtec and Skat which use technologies to make affordable building materials ; Increasing investment in research and promoting local building materials and traditional building technologies to cater for the modern housing requirements for low-income households ; encouraging the use of locally made building materials instead of imported ones ; Giving tax incentives to investors in local production of building materials and in housing development ; and promoting vertical building practice to maximise land use rather than horizontal building practice which uses vast land resources.

Participants, on the other hand, suggested possible solutions to tackle affordable housing challenge in Kigali. Some of the proposed solutions include : Creation of public awareness on existing policies that promote housing using the local language understood by the majority citizens ; Reducing labour costs on affordable housing projects by directly involving beneficiaries ; Documenting and coordinating existing affordable housing projects ; Establishing a scheme where the government gives unfinished houses to the citizens with low incomes to complete and own them ; Sensitizing citizens to focus on other housing opportunities such as rent rather than focusing on owning their individual houses ; Conducting a study to find out how the existing informal settlements can be efficiently exploited to contribute to the affordable housing supply ; Sensitizing community to save in order to increase their purchasing power for affordable houses and regulating the prices set for the houses developed by investors to prevent investors ripping off the home buyers.


The forum on Affordable Housing in Kigali was a reminder that the city faces a rising demand for affordable housing and the need for urgent action. It provided space to participants to debate on the issues of concern such as the Kigali City master plan, probe the existing policies and propose solutions to the persistent need for affordable housing in Kigali. Solutions provided by the participants will be compiled in a report which will be shared with the relevant stakeholders including policy-makers for follow-up and action.

About the Organisers

The Institute of Policy Analysis and Research(IPAR-Rwanda)

IPAR-Rwanda is the leading independent, not-for-profit research and policy analysis Think Tank in Rwanda. It became fully functional in 2008 with the support of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) with initial start up support from the Government of Rwanda. We conduct research in a wide range of areas but our focus areas include : Agriculture, Rural Development and Settlements, Social Development, Governance, Economic Growth and Transformation, Environment and Natural Resources Management. For more information, visit :

Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR)

The Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR) is an independent, non-partisan pan-African not-for-profit organisation established in 2011 and located in Nairobi, Kenya. Currently engaged in more than 12 African countries, PASGR works to enhance research excellence in governance and public policy that contributes to the overall well-being of women and men. For more information, visit :

View photos of the forum here