OPINION: Rural Housing Got a Raw Deal in the New National Housing Policy

By: Charles Ofwono 

Monday 3rd Oct 2016 was World Habitat Day. This Day is commemorated by all UN member states on every first Monday of October. Member states and housing sector players meet and discuss challenges, page celebrate successes realized and set agenda for the housing sector.

For Uganda’s case there is no celebration yet because the housing sector is still engulfed with challenges from all corners!

Uganda commemorated this year’s World Habitat Day with the launching of National Housing Policy under the theme “Adequate Shelter for All”.

At Imperial Royale Hotel, visit the occasion was graced by the Rt. Hon Dr. Prime Minister Ndugu Ruhakana Rugunda, stomach the Lands, Housing & Urban Development Minister- Hon Betty Amongi, the Minister of state for Housing- Hon Dr. Baryomunsi, the state Minister for Urban Development- Hon Musumba, the former Minister of Lands, Housing & Urban Development- Daudi Migereko among other dignitaries. The hall was full beyond its capacity.

This is a good step in the right direction as far as the housing sector is concerned. Even when I was not recognized, I recognized my contributions in the demand for it as well as participation in its formulation when it was still in a draft form.

In fact it was an error / omission for my name not be on the list of people who were recognized in the struggle for the National Housing Policy!

New   trends in the Housing sector and the new Policy positions.


The overall housing situation in Uganda is characterized by inadequate housing in terms of quality and quantity both in rural and urban areas.

Statistics show that currently there is a housing deficit of 2.1 Million housing units in Uganda with 1,890,000 units in rural areas and only 210,000 units in urban areas.

Policy Statement 13 on Rural Housing indicates that the government shall;  Improve the quality of houses and the settlement patterns of rural housing and also ensure sustainable access to basic services using the following Strategies:

(i) Continually improve the technologies and materials being used in house construction in rural areas.

(ii) Promote and sensitize the rural population on the merits of living in properly planned settlements and houses.

(iii) Integrate policies that guarantee access to basic services such as water, energy and waste management.

(iv) Sensitize the population on the use of decentralized renewable energy systems such as solar lighting and adoption of improved cook stoves.

Policy Statement 8 on Urban Housing and Slum Upgrading; Government shall develop programmes for affordable housing in the urban areas and improve the living conditions in slums and prevent future development of slums and other informal settlements using the following Strategies:

(i) Implement the recommendations of the National Slum Upgrading Strategy and Action Plan.

(ii) Acquire land and plan it for mass housing schemes.

(iii) Undertake affordable housing schemes on a PPP arrangement.

(iv) Formulate and implement the National Urban Policy.

How the policy provided a raw deal to Rural Housing

The panelists made their case on the policy and its implications on housing. From the above policy positions any policy analyst will agree with me that strategies do not in any way have direct link with housing production in Rural areas.

On the other hand a simple look into the policy strategies for urban areas clearly shows a link with housing production. When I stood up to make my appreciation and reservations on the new Housing Policy I raised eyebrows among the participants who probably did not scrutinize the policy and its linkage with housing production.

Given the state of affairs in the housing sector, any policy statement and strategy MUST be seen as causing housing production in one way or the other.

When we talk about “Adequate Housing for All”, more emphasis should in fact be put on rural housing because 80% of our country men and women live there. I don’t agree with some people who argue that housing in Urban areas need urgent intervention at the expense of the country side.

For years Kampala and other major towns for example, have had urban planners / administrators / physical planners and still the ‘city’ and towns are slums! Urbanization is currently at 5.2% per annum. Rural growth centers are all over Uganda. What plans are there to guide this growth? Doesn’t it require rural interventions to plan for cities and towns in the offing?

In some of my earlier postings I faulted President Museveni for neglecting rural housing. Now that he is throwing the political might behind the housing sector what went wrong in the policy formulation? What was the relevance of the consultations that the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development conducted in which I proposed practical approaches to housing production in rural communities? Why can’t I fault the technocrats who framed this policy?

The move to a middle income economy without rural intervention will knock a dead end! I will be a witness! For one to think that a middle class economy is about figures and urban dwellers is equivalent to ‘industrial blindness’ as Chairman Byaruhanga Mukubwa says! A Middle Class status is seen and touched in the level disposable income among the people, lifestyles, livelihoods and the breath of the economy NOT the statistics of Uganda Bureau of Statistics!

I know the policy could have evaded direct involvement of Government in housing production for rural dwellers because of the magnitude of housing deficit there. We can still realign the policy in the course of its popularization, to promote Rural housing Cooperative Societies, do capacity building for them and encourage self-help housing production but with support and guidance from government and other sector players.

The writer is a Chairman, Foundation for Rural Housing


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