Nairobi: The housing challenge in Kenya is the product of more than a declining economy. Failure to prioritise housing for the poor has unfortunately remained consistent. A couple of years back, MPs stated that “Instead of using millions of shillings to build high-rise flats for slum dwellers, the Government should give incentives to the private sector to build decent houses for the middle class also in dire need of affordable housing.” Access to adequate housing is explicitly recognised as a human right by the Constitution 2010. It specifically provides that every person has the right to “accessible and adequate housing and reasonable standard of sanitation.”
The International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, to which Kenya is a state party, also recognises the right to adequate housing and further stipulates that Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes steps, individually and through international assistance and co-operation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources. It also imputes an obligation (to fulfill) upon the state to take positive measures to ensure that the right is realised for all citizens. Despite these legal affirmations, evictions are still rampant. The national and county governments are expected to ensure adequate budgetary allocations to provide housing. The annual housing demand in urban areas is estimated at over 150,000 units. Supply on the other hand is estimated at 40,000 units per annum resulting in a supply gap of approximately 110,000 housing units.
The government’s failure to respect and protect the right to housing has been accentuated by corruption, mismanagement of state resources, land-grabbing, increasing poverty rates and growing informal settlements. The special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing recently submitted a report on financialisation and the right to adequate housing, noting that in recent years the housing sector has been transformed and valued as a commodity rather than a human dwelling. The New Urban Agenda (Outcome document from Habitat III) combined with the SDGs, especially target 11.1, is a good start in solving housing shortages and problems faced especially by the urban poor. The government can start by formulating a vision for the housing sector with clear attainable short, medium and long term goals.