ELITH as a research study situates itself in low-income housing. This is done consciously as currently up to one third of the world’s population falls in the low-income bracket and need appropriate housing. It is projected that this housing need will only grow especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where population is growing fastest with a threat of mass homelessness. (UN-Habitat, 2008)
This blog post sets out to discuss the meaning of low-income housing in the context of Uganda. Uganda a landlocked country situated in East Africa, is bordered by Kenya to the East, South Sudan to the North, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the West, Rwanda to the Southwest, and by Tanzania and Lake Victoria to the South. The region is sometimes referred to as the great lakes region due to the presence of lakes: Victoria, Tanganyika, Malawi, Turkana, Albert, Rukwa, Mweru, Kivu and Edward. These lakes are important to note due to the fact that they have a major influence on settlement patterns. This is most especially true for Uganda whose main urban centres: Kampala, Kira, Nansana, Jinja, Entebbe, Mbarara, Kasese and Masaka, eight of the 10 largest urban areas in Uganda accounting for more than 50% of the countries urban population (UBOS, 2010) lie within the lake basin region.
Worldwide, there are a number of working definitions for low income housing arising from a combination of the definitions of low-income in that region, and the purpose for which income groups are being delimited. For example, Palmer (200?) commenting on low-income with regards to households in the United Kingdom suggests that low-income refers to a situation where a household may be in strained circumstances because it has to spend a greater proportion of its income on necessities than the average family of similar size. Specifically, the threshold for low income is defined as the income below which a family is likely to spend 20 percentage points more of its income on food, shelter and clothing than the average family. Palmer (200?) reveals that in 1992, an expenditure survey in the United Kingdom showed that on average, families spent 43% of their after-tax income on necessities. Then, to calculate the low-income cut off, 20 percentage points are added, giving 63% of after-tax income. This is done on the grounds that a family spending more than this proportion of its income on necessities is significantly worse off than the average family.
The idea of low-income housing is in many ways similar to that of low-income, in fact, it can be said that, the concept of low-income housing is an investigation into low-income, with particular emphasis on the impact of housing as a necessary burden on a household’s income. According to the Washington State Labour Council (2009), Woo and Mangin (2009) the definition for low-income housing arises from the premise that a household’s monthly cost of housing should not exceed 30% of its net income. This is because in a situation where housing costs are greater than 30% of the household’s income, the fore mentioned household would find it difficult to meet other necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care. Therefore, households that cannot be suitably housed at the 30% percent standard within an area are considered “low-income,” meaning they earn below 80% of the area median income. This “standard” however is not fixed and various countries utilise a different income percentage. Canada for example changed from 20% to 25% in the 1950’s and are currently utilising a 30% household income rule (Hulchanski, 1995) and India utilises a 40% rule.
Highlighting definitions associated with low-income housing does not elucidate their application or usefulness. In order to comprehend the meaning of the definitions, it is important to understand the driving rational for generating the definitions. It is worth noting that developed countries that have well developed welfare systems often generate comprehensive data and definitions with regard to low-income housing. In these regions low-income housing refers to that which is provided to households at a cost less than that which would be considered financially strenuous. The central administration utilising various tools intervenes in the process of housing supply to ensure that the housing needs of a cross section of income earners is met. However, in developing countries like Uganda factors such as wide spread poverty, a large informal sector and limited government resources limit the ability of low-income housing provision and by extension, definition.
Having observed a lack of systems for coordinated low-income housing supply, and on a more elementary level, an official and universally acceptable (Ugandan?) definition for low-income housing, in your opinion, what is low-income housing in the context of Uganda?
UN-Habitat. (2007) Housing for all: The challenge of affordability accessibility and sustainability. Nairobi: UN-Habitat.
Palmer, G. (200?a). Choices of low-income threshold. [online] Available at: <http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/income%20intro.shtml> Retrieved: 27.May. 2014
Washington State Labour Council (AFL-CIO) (2009) Affordable Housing and Homelessness. [online] Available at: <http://www.wslc.org/legis/afford.htm> Retrieved: 10. March. 2014.
Woo, R., Mangin, J. (2009) What is affordable housing? New York: Center for Urban Pedagogy.
Hulchanski, J. D. (1995) The Concept of Housing Affordability: Six Contemporary Uses of the Expenditure to Income Ratio. Housing Studies, Vol.10, no. 4.
Nnaggenda-Musana, A., Vestbro, D. U. (2013) Upgrading with densification. Global Journal of Engineering, Design and Technology. Vol.2, no.1, pp. 27-72.
Uganda Bureau of Statistics. (2010). 2010 statistical abstract. Kampala: Uganda Bureau of Statistics.
UN-Habitat. (2007) Situation analysis of informal settlements in Kampala. Nairobi: UN-Habitat.