State should do more than just demolitions
SEE ALSO :More players eye cooking gas pieAs I have argued before, land use policy can be a powerful tool for accelerating development in Kenya. Such policy can unlock immense value. It can also structure Kenyans choices on how they deploy their labor, where they send their children to school, the hospitals they attend, among other choices. The fact that as a country our land use remains singularly haphazard should be a seen as a deliberate wastage of public resources. In other words, the government should not stop at demolishing buildings. The next logical step should be to streamline the construction industry, from the permitting authorities, to private architectural and construction firms, to the licensing of brick layers. All this should be part of a coherent process to standardise building codes across the country. Such standardisation will allow not only for easy regulation, but will also open up markets for land and buildings. Ease of valuation will allow for deeper financialisation of the construction industry. Beyond standardising the regulations, zoning standards, and building codes, the government should also consider building proper storm drains. The fact of the matter is that Nairobi will only get denser over time.
SEE ALSO :NLC hearing told of land grabbingEventually, we will not be able to afford large tracts of land for runoff drainage. Here, too, zoning and regulation can help us achieve the desired results. Proper mapping of human settlement in our urban areas would facilitate the construction of the needed drainage systems. And the government need not bear all the cost of such construction projects. The private sector as well as the individuals served with such drainage systems can be incentivized to pay for them. In sum, as the national government mulls the implementation of the housing component of the Big Four Agenda, there are opportunities to completely overhaul the housing and construction sector. It is my hope that beyond the hoopla of cranes bringing down expensive apartments in Nairobi, our policymakers are thinking of what ought to come next. And what ought to be the everyday way of doing things. - The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University