THE SPATIAL PATTERN OF HOUSING AND STREET CONNECTIVITY WITHIN BUEA URBAN
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The increasing urbanization rate in Buea has helped increase the construction rate of houses within the town. The absence of a layout plan to be followed before construction has led to spontaneous construction of houses which further led to poor street layout. Thus, this study aimed at examining the spatial pattern of housing and street connectivity within Buea urban. Data were collected through the administration of questionnaires, field survey, interviews, articles, textbooks and related thesis. These data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics such as the Chi Square. Findings from the study revealed that: the unplanned construction of houses has led to poor street connectivity in Buea. Also, results show that the role of the government as far as the spatial pattern of housing and street connectivity is concerned is not yet effective. Furthermore, the study reveals that the present spatial pattern of housing and street connectivity in Buea had caused some problems such as: poor street layouts and inaccessibility of some areas by vehicles within Buea. To ameliorate this condition, the researcher suggested that some measures such as: the implementation of a land use plan for Buea, effective development of streets within neighborhoods in Buea and increase sensitization of the Buea urban population on issues concerning housing.
In this chapter, housing and street connectivity in the world will be examined generally and narrowed down to Cameroon specifically. The statement of the problem, research objectives, and research questions will be outlined in this chapter. The research hypotheses which will guide us in the research, scope and significance of the study are part of this chapter.
Urban form and structure are the patterns and spatial arrangements of land use, street systems, and urban design elements, including the physical urban extent, layout of streets and buildings, as well as the internal configuration of settlements (Lynch, 1981; Handy, 1996 cited in Seto and Dhakal, 2014). Therefore, the urban form and structure of a town or city originate from the arrangement of the factors listed above which include housing pattern and street connectivity.
Housing is one of humanity’s most basic necessities after food. This is because according to Kumar (2012), housing is an indicator of the quality of life a person enjoys and it also helps in creating conditions conducive to the achievement of crucial goals in matters pertaining to education, health, sanitation and the living standards of people. According to the United Nations (2019), the world’s population is expected to increase from an estimated 7.7 billion people in 2019 to 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 10.9 billion in 2100. This implies that, with the rising population in the world, the demand for houses will increase with time. Therefore, housing is a very important aspect in the world today.
The effect of urbanization on access to adequate housing in developing countries especially in Africa has manifested itself in sociological, economic and demographic terms. There is always uncontrollable movement of people from rural to urban areas with resultant effect on housing, hence housing shortage, growth of informal settlements, urban poverty and housing development (Atieno, 2013). In addition to these, estimates show that urbanization in Africa has increased from about 27% in 1950 to 40% in 2015 and projected to reach 60% by 2050 (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs [UN-DESA], 2014 cited in Teye, 2018).
Bah, et al (2018), argue that, though urbanization has increased, urban plans to manage the rising population are based on crude adaptations of planning policies and are lagging behind. Consequently, this has led to an increase on urban infrastructure and resources; thus, adversely affecting the housing sector. This continual increase in the urban population of towns and cities has led to an increase in the housing problems and growth of slums which are characterized by overcrowded houses, poor access to water supply, poor sanitation and limited electricity supply.
When referring to housing, we do not only consider the building, but we also look at all the services and facilities surrounding housing which include; provision of good drinking water, electricity, waste management, good streets, drainage just to name a few. Everybody needs to be housed but not everyone is housed. By 2050, the UN estimates that 3 billion persons will be living in slums with most of these persons found in developing countries (United Nations Center for Human Settlements [UN-Habitat], 2010). It is also estimated that 60 – 80% of residents of Kenya’s largest urban centers like Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu reportedly live in informal settlements (UN- Habitat, 2008 cited in Atieno, 2013).
Presently, housing issues are a global phenomenon and mostly lie in the hands of urban and regional planning sector. Housing approach in Dar es Salaam like many cities, especially in developing countries is oriented towards reducing the inadequacy of the object (housing), so as to enhance livelihood, particularly in the form of meeting accommodation (Kiduanga, 2017). Therefore, housing issues are not limited to developing nations only, but to the world at large. Also, the strategies aimed at solving housing issues, mainly lie in the hands of the urban and regional planning sector in each country. These strategies focus on providing adequate housing facilities, thereby improving the living standards of the citizens.
The rapid growing population of Cameroon has led to an increase in its population, especially the population in urban centers. The rapid growing of Kumba as well as other Cameroonian towns has led to poor and inadequate housing conditions (Kimengsi, et al 2015).
Buea, found in the Southwest region of Cameroon also suffers from this haphazard and uncontrolled pattern of housing distribution. This is evident in the pattern of some human settlements in some neighborhoods in the town.
Just like housing, street connectivity or network is a very crucial and important factor in urban areas. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (7th edition) defines a street as a public road in a city or town that has houses and buildings on one side or both sides. People need to be connected properly in order to be able to move from one area to another, and this can only be done with proper street connectivity. The current pattern of metropolitan streets and land development in the majority of countries all over the world appears to be increasingly unsustainable from both economic and environmental perspectives (Replogie, 1991).
Street networks lack in some aspects which include lack of environmental consideration; this is because some street networks do not encourage walking or cycling (which could help in reducing the emission of greenhouse gases produced by cars) since there is the absence of proper pedestrian and bicycle pathways. This is observed in Nyalla, Douala. The inappropriate construction of streets has not made connectivity easier. Rodrigue, et al (2016), argue that one major street problem is the lack of or limited non-motorised street paths. This is as a result of little consideration for pedestrians and bicycles in the physical design of street infrastructure. This can be observed in Douala in quarters such as Pk8 in which there is clearly no pedestrian pathway.
According to Matthews and Steenbergen, (2018), streets in some African countries are poorly constructed and inadequate. This is also the case in Cameroon, where throughout the national territory; we observe a lot of poorly maintained streets in towns such as Buea, found in the Southwest region of the country.
Housing when properly developed becomes an effective instrument for population livelihoods and wellbeing (Kiduanga, 2018). This aspect is not properly handled in Buea, it leads to housing problems. The main housing problem within Buea urban arises from the fact that neighborhoods proceeded urban planning; that is, they came before planning. People constructed their houses before the planning authorities and administration had put in place any form of planning. This led to spontaneous neighborhoods and these neighborhoods came along with a number of problems. The absence of any planning document to refer to before constructing led to the creation of uncontrolled, haphazard and scattered pattern of houses within Buea. This can be observed in neighborhoods such as; Dirty-South, Ndongo and even Campaign Street where there is also little or poor street connectivity; as some areas within this neighborhood cannot be accessed by vehicles. This poses a problem, because according to site planning and design principles, all houses must be accessible. The creation of spontaneous settlements has also led to other problems which include; improper waste disposal and management methods, insecurity, inaccessibility even in cases of emergencies, scattered settlement patterns and unaesthetic presentable urban environment which are all town planning problems which must be addressed.
Based on the above stated problem, the study answered the following questions.
How is the state of the spatial pattern of housing distribution and street connectivity within Buea urban?
- Does the spatial pattern of housing distribution determine street connectivity within Buea?
- What is the role of the government and the community in the spatial pattern of housing distribution and street connectivity within Buea urban?
- Which problems have arisen from the spatial pattern of housing distribution and street connectivity within Buea?
- Can solutions be suggested to solve these problems?