Overview - The Housing Situation in Uganda
Overview: Housing in Uganda
The housing sector is very important in the overall socio-economic development of a country and has numerous multiplier effects, which include contribution to economic growth; fixed capital formation; employment creation; ensuring macro economic stability; enhancing quality of life and productivity of the population; shortage of affordable and decent housing; prevalence of slums and informal settlements; and a predominance of rental housing in urban areas. Despite housing being a basic human need for all, the government of Uganda still remains unable to meet the housing needs of all people and cannot afford to build and maintain pool houses. Subsequently, the Government has adopted an enabling policy to guide housing development, improvement and management. The policy is under review to enhance the role of various actors in housing delivery improvement.
A recently released housing survey by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics points at an improvement in housing, but states that there is still a gap to be filled if the majority of the poor are to fully realise this right. The survey indicates that Uganda has a housing deficit of 550,000 units. About 160,000 of this backlog is in urban areas. Kampala alone has a housing deficit of 100,000 units. Uganda’s population of 38 million, which is growing at a rate of 3.3% per year, is projected to increase to 63 million by 2030. With a rapid rate of urbanisation, it is estimated that two decades from now, Uganda will have a housing shortage of close to 8 million units, of which 2.5 million will be in urban centres and one million in Kampala.
The construction of structures for shelter in Uganda is guided by the National Shelter Strategy (1993). In 1992, the National Shelter Strategy (NSS) was adopted as a means of formulating viable shelter strategies which are conducive to full mobilization of local resources and to strengthen policy making and housing programming capacities of key actors in housing delivery at all levels of administration. National Shelter Strategy (NSS) adopted the “enabling approach” as its major policy under which Government operated to identify and remove bottlenecks that hamper housing development, by encouraging private sector participation in housing development. However, due to changes in national development ideology and other policies, National Shelter Strategy (NSS) policy objectives were rendered irrelevant.
In 2005, a National Housing policy was drafted based on the ideologies and principles of the national shelter strategy. The goal of the draft National Housing policy is a “well integrated sustainable human settlements, where all have adequate shelter with secure tenure, enjoy a healthy and safe environment with basic infrastructure services”. It responds to a number of challenges, that are relevant to slum improvement such as:
• the recognition that in urban areas, over 60% of residents stay in slums, characterized by poor sanitation, high disease incidence and frequent epidemics;
• The private nature of housing; the enforcement of minimum standards and prevention of negative externalities associated with overcrowding and poor sanitation and;
• The improvement of living conditions of the urban poor is of potential benefit to urban market for investment in properties and an effective land sector reform.
The right to housing, as defined by international law, is basic human need which allows us to subsist. Good housing contributes to the wellbeing of families and to a country’s broader economic and social development. According to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, general comment 4, the right to adequate housing  the minimum requirements of adequate housing are;
- Legal secure tenure; in their housing, people must be protected from eviction, harassment and other threats. States must enforce tenure security, in consultation of the affected groups.
- Availability of services and infrastructure; housing should include facilities essential for health, security, comfort and nutrition, safe drinking water, energy for cooking, heating , lighting, sanitation facilities, refuse disposal , storage and emergency services.
- Affordability; the cost of adequate housing should not be so high that it compromises the ability of the house hold to access other basic needs.
- Habitability; housing must protect its inhabitants from cold, damp, heat, rain or other health threats and structural hazards. It must provide adequate space for them.
- Accessibility; all people are entitled to adequate housing and disadvantaged groups in particular must be accorded full and sustainable access to housing which may mean granting then priority status in housing allocation or land use planning.
- Location; housing should be located in areas with access to employment options health, school, child care facilities. This service applies equally in rural and urban areas. Housing should not be built on or near polluted sites or sources of pollution.
- Cultural adequacy; activities geared towards development or modernization of housing should ensure that the cultural dimensions of housing are not sacrificed, while simultaneously ensuring technical facilities.
On site upgrading
On site upgrading means improving the physical, social and economic environment of an existing informal settlement, without displacing people who live there. When cities and governments support the process of upgrading informal communities, it can be the least expensive, most humane way of enhancing a city’s much needed stock of affordable housing, instead of destroying it. For on site upgrading to be successful there is need to apply better approaches and principles which include among others it has to be: participatory done in partnership and provide secure land tenure. Communities also have to contribute, upgrading must be affordable, the project must be financially sustainable, and it should be part of the larger development strategy.
Resettlement on suitable land
Removing people from their homes in informal settlements and re-housing them on alternative sites should never be the first choice option for decision makers. But in reality, the resettlement of informal settlements is sometimes unavoidable. When this is the only option, it should always happen with the agreement of most residents. It’s important for local authorities and housing agencies to remember that resettlement is always an extremely stressful process which creates anxiety in the already precarious lives of poor people. Some of the guidelines for the resettlement process should consider involving the effected people, communities have to be organised, disseminate information about the resettlement to the affected community, making use of best practices from other cities, surveying the communities, preparing the new plan, selecting the new site and organising the move.
Sites and services and incremental land development
As a reaction to most government’s inability to provide adequate, ready –built shelter to the entire urban poor household who need it, there has been a shift in thinking around the world, from seeing the state as provider of housing to seeing it as a facilitator of the self help housing efforts of the poor themselves. One form of this facilitation is when the government provides plots and basic services in a planned manner, but allows people to build their own houses on that land. These are called sites –and –services schemes. In a bid to support these sites and services, it should: stimulate and create conduce institutional, legal and policy environment to enable non-state actors top play an active role in housing finance and supply, promote the supply of a variety of affordable housing solutions, enable the development of different housing outcomes, establish a policy dialogue and promote savings for housing.
City wide housing strategies
If you decide to take a city wide approach to solve low-income housing problems, you will have your hands full. Besides coping with the cumulative backlog of years of housing shortages and upgrading all the under serviced areas in the city, you will also have to address future housing needs. Current needs for affordable housing alone in most cities are so overwhelming that the challenge of meeting future housing needs can seem an impossible task. Though if you are to use the approach the following should be ensured: political will, intergraded approaches and a city vision, a supportive local policy environment, the right national regulatory framework, responsive land and housing policies, policies to secure land tenure, mechanisms for financial sustainability, strategic alliances, strong and well coordinated institutions and technical capacity.
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