THE HOUSING SECTOR still faces challenges of non-compliance with regulations that could affect infrastructure development if concerned parties do not move in to avert the trend.
The remarks were made by housing experts during a joint inspection conducted in the six secondary cities of the country and the City of Kigali.
The inspection, which ended yesterday, was conducted by experts from Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA), Institute of Engineers of Rwanda (IER) and Rwanda Standards Board (RSB).
It was conducted in cities of Musanze, Rubavu, Muhanga, Huye, Rusizi and Nyagatare before ending in Kigali.
The experts, accompanied by local officials, visited sites whose public structures such as markets, banks, hotels, apartments, among others, were under construction to assess compliance with housing regulations.
The six secondary cities are set to be developed as poles of growth and centres of non-agricultural economic activities. This will require investment in specific hard and soft infrastructure and strategic economic projects that will trigger growth of these cities and enhance linkages to other towns and rural areas, according to the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II).
However, the joint team of experts says some regulations are still violated.
Issues raised include lack of soil tests and geotechnical report for some sites, no clear tests of materials used in construction, no safety equipments at some sites, and no first aid boxes to help those who may be injured in construction process.
The experts also faulted some contractors and supervisors at the sites who are not registered with the Institute of Engineers of Rwanda which is a legal requirement.
Suspended works, fines
Work on two major buildings under construction in the City of Kigali were temporarily suspended over non-compliance with the regulations, while engineers at another site were asked to submit certificates and other requirements allowing them to practice in the country.
The suspended buildings are PMUB Albert Supply located behind Parliament in Gasabo District, also fined Rwf5 million, and Kayitare Anecto building located in Kicukiro.
Owners of an apartment under construction at Gishushu were given one day to submit certification documents to the City of Kigali.
District officials in charge of one stop centres were advised to ensure that both contractors and supervisors comply with housing regulations.
“Officials at one-stop centres are supposed to supervise constructions, as contractors and supervisors may be looking for self interests and breach the regulations,” said Janvier Muhire, the director of housing regulations and standards at Rwanda Housing Authority.
“We are encouraging officials at the district level to regularly supervise and advise on buildings to ensure housing regulations are observed,” Muhire added.
He said the issue of safety equipments is also a serious concern as those engaged in construction are always at risk of losing their lives, a loss to their families and the nation.
Construction labourers have rights to life; they need protection as their work such as breaking stones, climbing on top of buildings among others is risky, Muhire said.
Other faults cited were lack of soil tests, lack of ramps and proof of durability of particular buildings.
“It is against housing regulations and all engineers should be professional. Buildings we have supervised are public and big buildings that need structural stability, strength and durability. There is, therefore, need for soil test to ascertain the strength of the soil, we have laboratories that test soil and all constructors should have soil tested,” Muhire added.
Muhire talked of the need for construction engineers to be knowledgeable about regulations, noting that engineers’ failure to register with the association makes it hard to supervise them.
Eng. Yves Gahutu, from the Institute of Engineers of Rwanda, said materials such as steel, cement, iron bars, sand, among others, should be tested as there are competent laboratories to carry out the test.
Eng Egide Gahunzire, a supervisor at Rubavu-Goma one-stop border post, said they would engage contractors to ensure all housing regulations are observed.
“Such inspections should be done regularly as they remind us of our responsibilities, we are going to work with the team so that all materials are tested and that our employees are protected according to housing regulations,” he said.
Eng. Alice Umugwaneza, director of housing inspection unit at Rwanda Housing Authority, explained that the anomalies are due to the fact that the housing sector is yet to be developed.
She called for more awareness campaigns on building codes.
But now that there are laws and regulations concerning the sector, she said those who keep violating them would face penalties.
“We have come from far and have done so much but we still have a long way to go, basically what we are doing is to try to make sure that people are aware of the laws and understand them and then to reinforce penalties so that defaulters are punished,” Umugwaneza said.
Commenting on the suspended works on buildings, Umugwaneza said the inspection team found no satisfying documents at the sites and the engineers were not certified.
“We don’t know what is going on there and we asked the city of Kigali to issue them a stop notice immediately until they comply with the law,” she added.
Some of officials who work at one stop centre which is in charge of issuing construction permits and follow up of construction said some employees at the district centres have inadequate skills and their tasks are too huge to have time to supervise buildings.
“It is not easy for a one-stop centre manager to supervise buildings that are under construction in the district as most of the managers are law graduates who were formerly in charge of land centres. This makes it hard for them to know what it takes to identify gaps, besides their position is not well defined and they have heavy tasks to carry out,” said a one-stop centre manager, who preferred anonymity.
The New Times