Affordable Housing in Maputo, Mozambique

Affordable Housing in Maputo, Mozambique

Casas Melhoradas
Maputo, Mozambique | View Map
Johan Mottelson

Affordable Housing in Maputo, Mozambique

Casas Melhoradas as Architects

Casas Melhoradas is an applied research project on housing for low income groups in the informal settlements of Maputo, Mozambique with a three-fold focus: 1) developing alternative construction methods to improve the quality and decrease the cost of housing; 2) developing housing typologies that utilize space and infrastructure more economically to initiate a more sustainable urban development; 3) engaging in construction of affordable rental housing through public and private partnerships to scale up the impact of the project.

The project is carried out by the Institute of Architecture, Urbanism & Landscape, at KADK - The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation; the Mozambican NGO Estamos and Architects without Borders, Denmark.

The project’s latest housing prototype was completed in 2018 and consists of a low-rise high-density row-housing typology with six dwellings on a plot where there would otherwise reside a single family. Accordingly, the project demonstrates how space and infrastructure can be utilized more economically and thereby counter urban sprawl and the growing infrastructure deficit. All the dwellings have small private outdoor areas with kitchens, as cooking is largely an outdoor activity in the informal settlements of Maputo due to the use of charcoal. On the ground floor, the kitchens are placed on the verandas next to the street, adding a semi-private transition zone between the public and private. All kitchens are equipped with gas stoves to reduce air pollution and deforestation caused by the use of charcoal. The project has small common courtyards with shared bathrooms and laundry facilities. The project has a green roof where an additional floor can be added, which ensures the project a robustness in case further urban densification should be relevant in the area.Furthermore, the evaporation from the roof improves the indoor climate in the dwellings. The project was builtusing locally produced compressed earth blocks. Thereby, theenergy consumption in the construction processwas reduced while adding the same red colour tone of the local soil to the project.


Mozambique is located in Southeast Africa and is one of the poorest countries in the world. The capital, Maputo is characterized by urban development without effective planning, without enforcement of regulation, without appropriate infrastructure provision and urban sprawl. The extensive urban expansion causes increased infrastructure deficit, decreased mobility, loss of farmland and decreased access to services.

The city was developed by the Portuguese colonial rule until independence in 1975. Today Maputo has a population of more than 2.5 million with approximately 80% of the population living in informal settlements. The city has a high population growth rate (approximately 5% annually) and expands horizontally at high pace, covering vast areas with low urban density developments with limited infrastructure provision.  Recent developed settlements are far from the center of the city where the jobs are, causing an increasing pressure to find housing near the center, which can only be done by increasing the urban density within the built up urban fabric. There is limited experience with high densities in the informal settlements, as multi-story construction is expensive. However, the demand for centrally located space cause increasing land prices, providing the economic framework for urban densification through multi-story construction in the informal settlements.

The present horizontal urban development is costly and lead to decreased impact of implemented infrastructural developments. Urban sprawl causes decreased urban mobility as people need to spend more time on transport. These factors have wider negative implications on access to employment, health and education systems. Consequently, the widespread current urban expansion of the city threatens sustainable development.

The houses in the informal settlements of Maputo are almost exclusively single-story and the urban densities are relatively low. Centrally located informal settlements have approximately 0.3-0.4 floor area ratio (FAR). The FAR is generally decreasing with the distance to the center and below 0.05 FAR 20 km from the center.

Almost all homes are built without the involvement of the formal construction sector and virtually the entire construction process takes place in individual plots, leading to waste of resources as building materials are often left to deteriorate during the process. There is a very limited degree of industrialization in the construction sector and the quality of construction is often low.


Casas Melhoradas seeks to improve the quality and decrease the cost of housing and develop housing typologies that utilize space and infrastructure more economically to initiate a more sustainable urban development in the informal settlementsof Maputo.

The project develops semi-industrial building component production, and is experimenting with prefabricated element construction, produced locally in Maputo’s informal settlements, based on the local capacities.

The project develops multi-story housing typologies, rooted in the local socio-economic and cultural conditions, seeking to utilize space more efficiently, in order to contain the urban sprawl and use the infrastructure more economically. Thereby, the project seeks to facilitate the development of more compact urban environments in the informal settlements and make future infrastructure investments more cost-effective.

The developed housing models, building techniques and production methods are tested in full scale in collaboration with local builders, through construction of test houses and are subsequently evaluated to identify the most appropriate solutions for low-income groups in Maputo.

The constructed housing units are rented outthrough a local non-profit housing organization, reinvesting the income in construction of new houses. The project seeks to engage in public and private partnerships on construction of affordable rental housing in order to scale the impact of the project. The project is currently seeking donors and investors for future collaboration.

Architects: Johan Mottelson and JørgenEskemose, Institute of Architecture, Urbanism and Landscape, KADK - The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, Design, and Conservation; Architects without Borders, Denmark

Location:Maxaquene A, Maputo, Mozambique

Area:230 m2

Project year: 2018

Photo credits: Johan Mottelson

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