Uganda housing standards project

Geoff was commissioned by UNDP to act as the international Facilitator for a two day retreat meeting on “Developing Housing Sector Service and Service Delivery Standards for Uganda”. The retreat was organized by the Uganda National Planning Authority (NPA) and held in Kampala during the week of 12-16 January, 2015.

Although the World Bank data shows the 2013 national average income level (GNI) in Uganda was a modest US$600, Uganda expects to increase average incomes by 60% in four years to become a middle-income country by 2017 (for which the current threshold is US$1,045) by 2017. Geoff’s Terms of Reference required him to prepare a report and presentation on international examples of affordable housing appropriate to a middle income country. However,  the research undertaken by Geoff demonstrated that, in fact, no correlation can be made between housing standards and the income level of a country and Geoff demonstrated this by showing a house in London, UK (a high income country) that was only 1.5 metres wide, yet is perfectly legal (click here to see Geoff’s Powerpoint presentation). The research also showed that as national incomes increase, so do urban populations and competition for land, forcing up land and housing prices, so that official housing standards may not increase at all with increased incomes and could actually become more difficult to achieve.

Current draft housing standards in Uganda propose a minimum plot size of 150m2 with building setbacks at the front and sides. These standards are far higher than many people in Kampala and other towns currently occupy and can afford. Geoff stressed that any housing standards that are based on official aspirations and not economic realities are likely to make access to legal housing more difficult for a large proportion of households. They could also make it impossible to legalise and upgrade the large number of existing informal settlements. The NPA was unable to accept these findings and is proposing to develop and adopt housing standards that are “consistent with middle income countries”. Geoff wishes the NPA well and hopes that it will eventually establish standards, regulations and administrative procedures that are affordable and appropriate to the needs of all people in Uganda, especially the poor.

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