Covid-19 has changed our co-existence in housing; here is how

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This opinion is a reflection on the recent cabinet resolutions on 4th January 2021, tightening the existing health measures in order to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus in Rwanda.

They say every crisis offers opportunities, and that exceptional times provide an opportunity to reflect on the different realities of our co-existence on earth.

 

Covid-19 has indeed changed our ways of living and increasingly made us reflect on Housing a little more seriously, especially on the aspect of adequacy, confronted by the appeal to “stay home” aka ‘guma murugo’ as an act of public health solidarity. In the absence of a cure or vaccine, stay home remains a key operational control measure and mechanism to fight the pandemic.

 

These directives and emergency responses have given us a new conceptualization of housing- beyond a home. Indeed, the house we live in has also became; the school for our children, the office for our online work, a health facility for care/isolation for those that fall ill, a gym or playground as sports centres remain closed, etc.

 

Amid all the uncertainty brought in by Covid-19 since March 2020 (At least for Rwanda), one thing is assured: the pandemic has forced us into newer relationships with people and spaces around us on unprecedented scales and in a manner that may not be reversible.

Restrictions on movement were severally set as a protective measure and this has provided to us a tangible demonstration of how housing environment can feel for someone whose movement has been permanently or temporarily restricted.

Moments like these indeed highlight both the challenges and the opportunities associated with transforming our homes into multiple use spaces: used by multiple people for multiple purposes, potentially with issues of safety, privacy, noise etc. and all of which come with health and well-being related implications.

While architects can figure out for us what attributes of designing a house plan can make the stay home or worse still, the quarantine conditions feel more tolerable, with or without architecture, it has become evident that each on is tasked to rethink how the daily experience in our homes can help shape a better today and tomorrow.

The dining tables become classrooms between family meals, we were forced to use out gardens and porches more when we need a small escape from the indoors, we have mastered how to make use of neighbourhood streets as recreational areas, etc.

At a policy level, Covid-19 pandemic also brought in innovative practices to cushion citizens from the near-term adverse effects of the crisis, including unforgiving landlords, especially for the households who were/are struggling to pay rent following job losses or reduced work and hence pay. Governments have also responded to the pandemic with a wide array of measures to protect tenants and mortgage-holders, as well as support builders and lenders. These ought to be sustained even in the post-Covid era because it does have implications on other sectors of the economy.

For instance, study has shown that restrictive regulation of landlord-tenant contractual relationships is linked with lower residential mobility and consequently with labour mobility. Therefore, if not well embedded into policy, the post-Covid-19 recovery can be rendered difficult, as it will require unintended reallocation of labour and capital, which further impact on prospects for social and spatial inclusion in…



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