How new city master plan brings social inclusion and flexibility in construction

How new city master plan brings social inclusion and flexibility in construction

The new City of Kigali master plan launched on September 4, brings flexibility in building and also enhances social inclusion, among others, an urban planner has told The New Times.

The master plan, Marie-Solange Muhirwa, an Architect and Chief Urban Planner of the City of Kigali, said, introduced flexibility of zoning regulations in order to respond to commercial real estate market demands.

She stressed that it is responding to the market conditions especially on housing affordability.

Shedding light on the new positives of the master plan to be implemented from 2020 to 2050, Muhirwa noted that there are no wholesale changes to the zoning structure of the city master plan but regulations on each zone were revised.

For example, she said, the number of commercial zones has shrunk from nine to three.

“We have done this through merging two or more zones to make it easier for all users to apply the regulations with minimal complexities,” Muhirwa said.

Residential zones were also shrunk from seven to five, she noted, adding that they also added overlay zones to “allow for maximum flexibility in applying land use.”

Muhirwa explained that, however, there are areas where zones changed completely, and this was done to respond to either the new context, client requests and wishes, or the direction of the current and future market dynamics.

New zones and zoning regulations, she explained, were introduced to ensure the affordability, flexibility, and implementability of the plan.

The minimum plot size was reduced, plot ration increased, on-street parking will be allowed in the residential area to maximize the use of land, and common facilities will be suggested in a suitable location in a more flexible manner.

For example, under the previous (2013) city master plan, the minimum plot size in a commercial zone was 4,000 square metres but that was shrunk to 500 square metres.

Shedding light on the flexibility brought about by the new city master plan, the urban planner noted that it, among others, provides different scales and cost ranges of commercial and industrial solutions, following current and expected market dynamics.

It allows incremental development of commercial and mixed-use buildings following the investment capacity of investors and developers “but in respect of clear guidelines”; it encourages mix of uses in all areas to promote a 24-hour city; and it integrates micro – Industrial Zones in housing areas, mixed with social infrastructure and green open spaces.

The new master plan reduces zones dedicated to single-family housing, and promotes densification with incentives to modify building typologies and densities, she said. It facilitates vertical and horizontal incremental development, allowing phased construction of mixed-use, residential or commercial buildings.

It promotes upgrading in high land value areas where, she noted, the land pooling approach will be effective due to cross financing mechanism. It permits implementation of something called the extensive site and servicing approach “to accommodate low-income earners.”

Muhirwa said: “Sites have been selected for their proximity to public transport corridors. Areas will be mixed-use zones allowing a vast variety of income-generating activities and public facilities.”

Designing flexible and adaptive guidelines, allowing incremental low-cost construction, in respect of minimum design guidelines, is another positive.

Furthermore, the master plan promotes and incentivizes land pooling as the main implementation tool for providing affordable housing solutions.

And, besides preserving more agricultural land by encouraging land consolidation, the new master plan establishes “a social and income mix in all parts of the city to ensure social cohesion in current population and future generations,” Muhirwa noted.

Social inclusion

Social inclusion is defined by the World Bank, Muhirwa noted, as the process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society, or more precisely, the process of improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of people, disadvantaged on the basis of their identity, to take part in society.

Regarding the renewed emphasis on social inclusion, she explained that “Kigali aims to become the City for citizens that respect the needs of various groups of people to create a home for all.”

She added: “It essentially focuses on the provision of mixed-use neighbourhoods, affordable housings, participatory rights to all its population to live in an inclusive environment, together with the development of public spaces and social facilities.”

In addition, while many first time homeowners were not allowed to first put up small self- contained residential units to live in as they slowly built their main houses, the practice is now allowed.

Muhirwa said the new master plan introduced ancillary residential units as ancillary small rental units managed by privates at a small scale

“An ancillary residential unit is used as an additional living space that is close to, but independent from the main property,” she said.

Previously, the only ancillary structures that were allowed were things such as car parking garages, the security guard houses, maid quarters, outdoor kitchens, and storerooms. But now, one can put up a small residential annex in his or her plot.