A concerted effort to cure shortage of shelter

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BY NBM WRITER

The Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development recently announced that it is facilitating the building of 200,000 social housing units and 800,000 affordable units annually to stem out the biting housing challenges in Kenya. Under this urbanisation and housing agenda, the government is expected to facilitate the delivery of one million affordable homes.

According to Aidah Munano, the Principal Secretary in the State Department, the country is likely to use various initiatives, installation of both physical and social infrastructure as well as informal settlements in selected urban areas in order to make it happen.

Giving some interesting pointers about providing a solution to the lack of affordable housing that is now a concern for everyone, Munano who was speaking at a workshop, Urbanisation and Housing on Kenya’s new cities, at a Nairobi hotel last month, said that how to turn things around calls for investment in potential metropolitan regions, finalization and implementation of national urban development policy and markets development policy.

To respond to the housing sector concerns, the State official reiterated that incentives to facilitate private sector investment in affordable housing, which include reduction of corporate tax and scrapping of levies charged by the National Construction Authority and the National Environment Management Authority, are already in place. At the same time, specific interventions related to legislations are also being reviewed to address release of affordable funds for both the supply and demand sides for affordable housing as counties are also encouraged to invest in social housing to cater for the influx of people moving to the county headquarters from the rural areas in search of employment and business opportunities.

“We need innovative ways to offer affordable housing whose value should be Sh3 million,” she says. “Development of new cities is not easy. That’s why the delivery models under review envisage the provision of these housing units achieved through collaborative efforts by both the public and private sector.”

Explaining the impact and what goes into giving slums a facelift, the PS said that when you relocate people from slum you are not helping them. When you talk social housing to some extent, she said, don’t expect so much to happen in terms of uptake when the targeted group lacks the purchasing power. She said: “You see, 60% of our people earn less than Sh25,000 a month. So if we ask them for more by going beyond that figure (Sh 3 million), we are not responding to their problem. It is no longer affordable housing.”

At a time when the list of cities include Konza technology city, Tatu City, Longonot Gate or Makuyu Ridge, Darugo Metropolis and Northlands City, the country is on the right path if the Kenya Informal Settlement Improvement Programme and preparation of integrated development plans for designated urban areas as defined in the Urban Areas and Cities Act of 2011 are anything to go by.

Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) is another project that’s giving a boost to affordable housing. LAPSSET is making the path to realising affordable homes easy by opening up the interior parts of the country and the continent. A vision realised include Isiolo to Moyale road, Lamu port which will able to accommodate large ships. Opportunities presented by the transport corridor include heritage and resort cities, tourism sites, as well as new nodes like eco-industrial parks, just to mention a few.

Mr Silvester Kasuku, CEO LAPSSET Corridor Development Authority said that as long as planning is undertaken, bench marking done, and basic infrastructure built to bring on board private sector players, urbanisation and housing is where to invest in at the moment.

“We need to get out of the colonial infrastructure and move more to the next level. As the corridor is experiencing exponential growth giving rise to new developments like housing projects, airports… there is a lot of hope so much that we need to ensure we don’t have cities that lack master plans. We are facilitating private sector going forward. We need change,” Kasuku said, pointing out that the corridor also boosts not only manufacturing and food security but also affordable housing and health care.

While Nairobi City is projected to house about 6 million by 2030 from an estimated 4 million in 2015, plans for decent and high quality urban livelihoods for the ballooning population will go along way. Properly planned urbanisation can improve the standards of living of Kenyans. Private sector has made good effort, but more can be done so that a majority of Kenyans are able to afford the houses so far developed. With interest rates high (despite being capped), low and informal income and the rising population are cited as the main stumbling blocks putting home ownership out of reach for most urban dwellers. But these urbanization challenges are about to end. 

Ms Munano said that a new programme dubbed the “Kenya Urban Support Programme (KUSP) which became effective on 11 January 2018 aims to strengthen urban institutions in urban areas in 45 counties in addition to providing other critical and basic urban infrastructure. The planned new cities are addressing this challenge by ensuring all categories of Kenyans have been catered for within the “mixed use” development concept.

“We have to have a procurement system which is sustainable, and as much as we are doing this, Kenyans must own this such that 40% input should actually come from local sources. This is where social corporate values also come in where youths, women as well as people with disability are involved more,” Munano said.