What you need to know before building your home in a peri-urban area

What you need to know:

Nothing is as exciting as living in your own home. For someone who has lived in rented homes for a long time, it comes as a relief when there is no landlord knocking on your door for rent. But before you pack up and leave your cramped urban apartment for your spacious peri-urban consider the logistics involved.

One of the biggest issues facing the urban worker is shortage of housing in the city centre or the outskirts, so many of them find themselves living too far from their work placesThe available housing tends to be too expensive and sometimes inadequate for growing families, so families make a conscious decision to live as far from the madding crowd of the city as possible, to raise their children in a tranquil environment.

But before you pack up and leave your cramped urban apartment for your spacious rural home three hours away, consider the logistics involved. These include the commute involved to and from work, availability of schools for the children, access to essential services such as healthcare, clean water and electricity connection. It is counterproductive to move into the home of your dreams only to end up racking up more expenses than you did before. 

Affordable rent vs transport

One of the biggest attractions of homes in rural areas is the cheap rent.  It is possible to find a home that would go for Shs1m on the city outskirts going for half the rate in places such as Maya and Nakirebe in Mpigi, Busiika off Gayaza, Garuga and Lugonjo in Entebbe or Jjeza on Mityana Road among other places.

While it looks like one is saving on the surface, when all expenses involved in going to and from work are computed, you find they have actually spent more than they hoped to save by living so far away. 

When Douglas Birungi, found a plot in Gayaza at Shs25m he felt as if he had hit a jackpot. He set about building the home of his dreams and within a year he was ready to move in.

“But I kept finding myself extending the date to vacate my rented apartment in Kisasi. At first, my wife and I decided to let the children first finish the school term before considering the move. When we could not push it anymore we moved in during the holiday. The children loved the freedom the spacious compound gave them and planting crops and seeing them grow. The horror however, started when schools opened and we had to commute from Gayaza to Greenhill in Namuwongo every morning and braving the evening traffic jam every evening,” Birungi narrates.

Soon the couple realised they were spending a lot of fuel using two cars so they decided to carpool. This too, caused inconvenience as one or both were often late for work.

“When the children started experiencing fatigue because of the very early mornings and late nights, I made a decision to move back to the city outskirts. We rented out our home. We use the rent we get from it to pay the rent here but most importantly, our expenses on fuel have become manageable,” says Birungi.

He says, he will consider moving back when he retires and the children are in secondary school. This is the hidden cost that escapes most people’s consideration when moving farther from the city or urban centre.  For someone who does not own their own vehicle, the cost of transport and the long journeys eventually take their toll that not even the fresh air and greenery of their homes can take from their minds.

Those with personal cars, the cost is even higher. The poorly maintained feeder roads lead to rapid wear and tear of the car forcing the motorist to visit the garage more often than usual, to keep their car in good shape.

And for the neat freaks, you have to pay for its washing on a daily basis because of the dusty roads you use. If you have always wondered why washing bays somehow crop up next to workplaces, now you have the answer.

Insecurity of person and property

Nothing is as exciting as buying land or building your own home. For someone who has lived in rented homes for a long time, it comes as a relief when there is no landlord knocking on your door for rent. No wonder people throw housewarming parties to celebrate this milestone.

 However, places such as Kaga in Wakiso or Katosi in Mukono are still isolated because there are still huge chunks of virgin land. 

While this is the kind of peace and quiet homeowners crave for, it might also be a disadvantage. This isolation encourages theft and vandalism.

Yes, you may have security measures in place but with no immediate neighbours, thieves will find it easy to climb over the fence and vandalise your property and in worse situations, harm you and your people as John Ssemakula and wife Susan, residents of Kaga in Wamala-Wakiso found out. 

The couple’s home was raided and lost their car and other valuable items. Following the break-in they decided to leave their home and are now renting in Kawuku on Entebbe Road until further notice.

Many other such residents have complained about robbers vandalising their cars and other property. To protect themselves, they have had to employ armed guards which is an added cost.

“Other thieves will not even wait to enter your house. They track you from work and wait to ambush you on the way home. The Boda Bodas that pick us from the tax stages are sometimes part of the gang and know all your movements,” says Ssemakula. This is the very reason why some people construct their homes but do not move in until the area’s population has grown. 

Inaccessibility to vital services

It is no secret that many of the areas several kilometres away from the city centres or urban centres do not have access to basic services such as piped water and electricity. To get connected to the national grid for either power or water is not a cheap venture, so most resort to solar energy or dig personal wells. There are hardly health services, shopping centres or good schools. To access any of these, one will be forced to move long distances to urban centres. 

Some parents such as Muzafar Katamba who has recently moved from Seeta to Katosi, solve the school problem by putting their children in boarding schools.

 “I had to put my two sons aged five and seven in the boarding section at Nsamo Mixed Primary School and Kindergarten in Seeta because I could not find a good school in his neighbourhood in Katosi,” he says.

Less time for children and family

For workers that live far away from work, often have less time to spend with their families because they leave early for work to beat the traffic jam and come back late because of jam. Most parents find when their children are in bed and see them briefly during the morning rush to beat the traffic. This has created a situation where children spend more time with the house help than their parents.

Available options

Under ideal circumstances it makes more sense to live at a walkable distance from one’s work place. This helps one save on transport to and from work and it will be easy to find time to spend with your family. You could even have the option of eating a healthy and nutritious lunch at home which adds longevity to your lifespan.

But if you must commute, the distance should not be more than 30 minutes by car.  One might  pay significantly rent more living closer to the city or urban centres but  at least some of that is counterbalanced by cheaper commuting costs. It is also absolutely a sensible choice for someone that values their time, does want to arrive to work frustrated because of traffic, or get up an extra hour early to drive into the city.

Look for available small plots that may give a home closer to the urban centre.  A good search may give you a relatively cheap piece of land close to the urban centre or work place that can help you erect a reasonable house that could accommodate your family.

A 30/30, 40/20 may be sufficient, if you work with a good architect. Acquiring an apartment around town on a hire-purchase system could also help solve the puzzle.

Under the ‘Condominium Property Act 2001’, many banks and estate developers have these products available.  But if you must move to a developing housing estate or a rural setting, better to have some or all the following in place for your security:

● Security cameras

● Perimeter wall fence

● Security trained dogs

● An askari

● Enough security lights at night

● A village whatsApp group for security coordination

● Create a good rapport with your neighbours

● A good perimeter wall fence must have see-through design to allow neighbours observe what may happen in your home while away. This should also apply to the gate. For your security, your gate is better with some openings. 

● While going back home, especially at night and evenings, try to use different routes to your home and if you must be use a boda boda, still use those that are known and registered on permanent stages.

● Carefully choose your maids and pay them well to deter them from conniving with thieves. Avoid annoying your maid unnecessarily even when rebuking them, be gentle and let them understand they are in fault. Once you are doubtful of the behavior of your house help, immediately get rid of them

Authored by Twaha Mukisa