Shaping The Debate on Gaps in Implementing Uganda’s Policy Regime on Housing

General Context

Housing is under human Capital Development in the National Development Plan II. Housing is much more than a roof and four walls. Decent Housing  is the key to other vital rights based services such as access to clean and safe water, a well-planned scenery, Hygiene and sanitation and hygiene, health,  food and security; livelihoods, Environmental sustainability and gender equality. (Source: UN Habitat Right to Adequate housing Section).

If Decent and Affordable housing is deliberately targeted:


  • It will become the engine that drives the process of sustainable socio-economic development in any country. The World Bank has established that for every one (1) USD appropriately invested in the housing sector, generates an economy-wide multiplier effect of between five (5) to 12 USD. The housing sector is considered the bedrock of the economy in all developed economies such as the USA, Great Britain and Canada among others. Currently it contributes less than 5% of Uganda’s GDP and 25% of Kenya’s GDP.
  • The sector has a huge potential to generate employment, increase productivity and raise the standard of living of the populace and alleviate poverty. Owing to this great potential and significance towards growth, employment and social- economic transformation, the housing sector, under the National Development Program (NDP) (2010-2015), has been identified and categorized among the Primary Growth Sectors of the economy.
  • Every Ugandan will meet the necessary requirements of safety, access to basic services, security of tenure, health, privacy and protection from the weather adversities.
  • Investment in housing (fixed capital) will enhance macro-economic stability and hinders inflationary tendencies since funds are spent on capital investment rather than consumption which fuels inflation.
  • Government revenue would sky rocket; housing generates Non Tax Revenue taxes from housing investments such as property tax, premium and ground rent tax on rental income, while taxes earned from developers like Value Added Tax withholding tax, license fees, hoarding charges and occupation permits.

In spite of the indispensable role that the Sector plays in sustainable development and GDP, the Sector still remains one of the least funded

Uganda’s commitments to decent and affordable housing include:

  • Objective XIV (b) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda which recognizes and mandates government to ensure all Ugandans enjoy rights to decent shelter.
  • the NRM manifesto (Chapter 4.5), the National Development Plan 2010-2015 (chapter 5.8)
  • The Habitat Agenda, adopted in Istanbul in 1996, signed by 171 governments including Uganda, which reaffirmed the commitment “to the full and progressive realization of the right to adequate housing.
  • Millennium Development Goal 7 target 11) which aims at achieving a significant improvement in the lives of slum dwellers as proposed in the “Cities without Slums” initiative by 2020
  • And Vision 2040 (chapter 5.5) which aim to ease access to decent affordable housing to all Ugandans through promotion of urbanization with provision of better

In 2012, it was estimated that Uganda had about 6.82 million households living in 6.2 million housing units with an average household size of 5.0 persons. The national occupancy density is estimated at 1.1 households per housing unit, giving a total backlog of 710,000 housing units. There is also a backlog of about 900,000 housing units as a result of sub-standard houses and structures, which were not meant for human habitation thus giving a total backlog of 1.6 million housing units 210,000 units in urban areas while 1.395 million units in rural areas.


The annual need for new housing for the entire country is estimated at 200,000 (two hundred Housing units) of which 135,000 are rural and 65,000 in urban areas resulting from the population growth of 3.5% national and 5% urbanization. This will create a deficit of 135,000 inadequate houses nationally of which 95,000 are in rural areas and 45,000 in urban areas. This shortage does not include the backlog of 1,600,000 housing units carried forward. Currently we are estimated at 34.9 million (Population Secretariat Census 2014) by 2022, Uganda’s population is projected at about 49 million people. With the current household size of five (5) persons, the housing need resulting from population growth will therefore raise to about three million housing units.  (Lands, Housing & Urban Development Sector Strategic PLAN 2013/14 – 2017/18 pg 19)


Uganda’s Second National Development Plan states that 60% of Ugandan population lacks decent housing and sanitation facilities services like basic physical infrastructure, housing and social amenities (pg 17). This growing population calls for immediate action and according to the Vision 2040 government, this will need partnerships with the private sector to provide decent urban and rural settlements. This policy brief points out policy options to address the housing challenges that Uganda faces to inform a national dialogue on the way forward for both government and the private sector and citizens as a whole.

Uganda Policies on Housing and challenges for implementation

Uganda Housing Policy (1978-1988)

During the colonial era, Uganda drafted a housing act to guide the housing sector beginning with meeting the demand for Government workers. This housing act set guidelines for construction of public and private houses, connection of public and private housing to the sewer lines and demarcation of land area designated for human settlements in both urban and rural areas. This informed the Housing Policy in 1978. However, this was overtaken by various post-colonial era developments notably the civil wars that were sustained until 1986.


National Shelter Strategy (1992)

Uganda developed a national shelter strategy framework to guide housing development in Uganda as part of an enabling approach to improve housing conditions. Part of the strategy was to dispose-off old government houses, enhance civil service salaries and encourage public workers to build houses of their own need and taste so that government concentrates resources on other service provision (water, roads electricity, education, and agriculture). However this strategy did not go far in addressing housing challenges as public servants could not manage to construct own houses in the wake of high land and construction cost. This paved way for extension of privately owned rental house units that have since dominated the housing sector.


National Slum Upgrading Strategy (2008)

Aiming at uplifting the lives of at least 1 million people through affordable housing, Uganda adopted a slum upgrading strategy and action plan in 2008 with the purpose of increasing the role of the poor and establishing partnerships with the private sector to support urban physical development plan implementation through an integrated approach to slum upgrading. However, the challenges of land tenure system have since affected implementation of this strategy. Spatial planning and enforcing housing plans and standards linked to tourism, agriculture, road and rail infrastructure plans will be vital to this progression. This would allow house units to be set up away from industrial zones where exposure to pollution is much less as would apply also for planned schools, hospitals and public places


National Urban Policy (2014)

Uganda passed the National Urban Policy in 2014 that calls for spatial planning and proper housing both in urban and rural areas. It’s a new policy whose operationalization is still being finalized.


Real Estate Regulations and Guidelines (Draft)

Parliament is considering a Real Estate Regulations and Guidelines Bill – whose details are still evolving.


Uganda’s 15 Year Strategic Housing Investments Plan

More recently, a draft 15-year Strategic Housing Investments Plan has been prepared, awaiting cabinet approval and adoption. This strategic plan, formulated side by side with new policies on decentralization, poverty eradication, new building codes, New Land Act  and alongside  some international  development agenda/instruments such as the  Habitat  Agenda and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).- embodies a National Plan of Action for Human Settlements which are expected to  positively transform  Uganda’s  current and future housing situation.


While these policies and their progressive refinements have improved housing delivery in Uganda over time, the housing problem is not yet completely eliminated. The country is still estimated to currently have a housing backlog of about 12.6 million units that will be demanded by 2040.


Key Policy Recommendations

  1. Develop a Comprehensive National Housing Policy and Law. With limited guidance provided by the Constitution it is now critical that a new comprehensive policy on housing is developed and discussed by all stakeholders for consent by the legislature and the executive. The challenge with most policies of government is implementation. Government will need partnership with the private sector to implement this policy and law. The focus will need to be put on low cost housing for urban dwellers but also staff houses in key public sectors like education, health, prisons, police and the military whose incomes may not support private construction at the prevailing prices.


  1. Elaborate Public Private Partnership Plans to design and implement housing expansion especially in urban areas where deficit is highest.

During NDPII the sector priority is to ensure access to decent, adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic facilities for all. This is projected to contribute to the sub-sector target of increasing housing units to 7.8 million 2019/20 from 6.2 million units in 2012/13. Ultimately the target is reaching 12.6 million units in the next 25 years. This will require spatial planning so that new developments are linked to development of other infrastructural plans. Construction cost raw materials (stones, cement and sand) exponentially go up since the demand is growing fast than the available natural stock – most getting exhausted in some cases (including sand). There is therefore a need for innovations to develop cheap and yet modern housing using wood for instance. Wood for ceilings could serve at a low cost than concrete casting.


  1. Implement the Real Estate regulations and guidelines with a special focus on Integrated Neighbourhood planning to support vertical as opposed to an unchecked horizontal sprawl of urbanization Uganda will continue on an unstainable path of adhoc urbanization unless it integrates all housing into urban physical planning  and integrated neighborhood planning that includes four key aspects:
  2. Detailed physical development planning in each locality;
  3. Comprehensive land titling, street naming;
  4. Slum upgrading; and
  5. Landscaping and public beautification
  6. Encouraging construction of flats as opposed to single holder units for some areas.

Neighborhood planning is being looked at a recipe for modern housing and urban development and setting up of settilite cities. In a country where expansion is happening horizontally, modern housing in settilite cities would ensure vertical growth. For instance, KCCA is aiming to promote well-planned neighborhoods, while seeking a balance between promoting public spaces and built up spaces in the city to enhance city aesthetics and environment conservation for sustainable development.  Another emerging dispensation with the passage of Greater Kampala’s Metropolitan Planning Authority Act which will institute a planning authority is metropolitan planning.

The idea is to plan for Kampala within the context of the physical plans for the neighboring Wakiso, Mukono, Entebbe, Jinja and Mpigi urban authorities. Ultimately, the lands ministry aims at supporting all urban authorities to implement their physical plans and not just Kampala alone.

  1. Review key urban aspects within the Land Tenure System and Land legislation

Urban development is greatly influenced by the land tenure system. Government proposed the land policy to guide land use in the city. The constitution provides that land belongs to the people; the people need to be compensated for any public use of that land. The compensation and resettlement costs arising out of this has significantly increased the city infrastructure development costs. Such costs would have been used to expand the infrastructure network since Infrastructure improvement significantly increases the value of land which is a direct benefit to the land owner. Given the exemption of owner occupied premises and lack of a land tax in the city, coupled with the procedural challenges in property revaluations infrastructure investment only results in an additional Operational and maintenance costs that strains the infrastructure budget.


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