Why affordable housing remains one of the basic rights for every Kenyan

“It is hard to argue that housing is not a fundamental human need. Decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this country. The reason is simple: without stable shelter, everything else falls apart”: Matthew Desmond, Harvard sociologist.

This demonstrates why the Affordable Housing, part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda is key to his legacy. This is not to say that we should ignore the other aspects of the Big Four agenda: manufacturing, universal health coverage, food and nutrition. Let me share my views on the ambitious Affordable Housing Programme (AHP).

Affordable housing is a key pillar in the economic development of any country as it guarantees its citizens an improved standard of living. The project delivery and finance framework overview released by the Government on AHP outlines four levels of housing types, but only three are under focus in the programme. The middle to high income range will cater for Kenyans earning between Sh50,000 and Sh99,000.

Under the affordable housing plan, a bedsitter will cost a maximum of Sh800,000 to purchase and Sh1 million for a two-bedroom while a three-bedroom unit will cost Sh2 million. The first lot covered in the 2017/18 financial year includes Park Road (1,640 units), Makongeni (20,000 units), Shauri Moyo (5,300 units), Starehe (3,500 units), Mavoko (5,500 units), Social Housing (15,000 units), counties (48,000 units) and Nairobi County (67,8000 units).

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The planet

However, it looks like the only challenge facing this ambitious programme is the financing model, which has not taken into consideration the interests of workers in the informal sector, but I believe this will be addressed by the social housing component in the project where a monthly rent equals a mortgage payment.

Decent housing is among the key planks captured by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Millenium Development Goals that are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

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It has to be noted that millions of Kenyans today live in informal settlements popularly known as slums that are without easy access to safe water, sanitation and healthcare. The World Bank projects that Kenya needs more than two million low income houses, and building them would boost its economic growth.

The World Bank’s Kenya Economic Update: Housing-Unavailable and Unaffordable report shows that the production of housing units is currently at less than 50,000 units annually, well below the target number; culminating in a housing deficit of over 2 million units, with nearly 61 per cent of urban households living in slums.

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The report adds that this deficit continues to rise due to fundamental constraints on both the demand and supply side and is exacerbated by an urbanisation rate of 4.4 per cent, equivalent to 0.5 million new city dwellers every year.

Higher risk

This kind of outlook in a very crucial sector like housing is not impressive for this country and that is why efforts by President Uhuru Kenyatta to increase the number of affordable houses across the country, through the Big Four agenda, need the support of every Kenyan.

Under AHP is the proposed Housing Fund which is the lynchpin in the delivery of affordable houses in the country and will play a critical role in bridging the gap between the supply of affordable housing by private developers and the demand of housing by low and middle-class Kenyans.

The Fund will also provide affordable long-term financing to homeowners through a Nationwide Tenant Purchase Scheme (“TPS”) and will allow low and middle-income Kenyans to save towards the purchase of an affordable home via a national Home Ownership Savings Plan (“HOSP”).

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Studies show that in 2012, about two million Kenyans were homeless and the number is steadily increasing by about 200,000 Kenyans per year and shows that about 68 per cent of all Kenyans do not own land and have a higher risk of contracting infections and diseases.

It is clear that affordable housing aims to reduce construction costs, unlock land for development and grow the mortgage finance market. Investors will be encouraged to invest as government support gives them more assurance in putting their resources behind the low-cost housing projects.

A lot of benefits are going to accrue from the affordable housing programme, among them the creation of job opportunities to the youth alongside the boost it will have on the construction industry.

Bodies like Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors (Boraqs), Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK), Engineers Board of Kenya and the National Construction Authority will have to train and accredit more professionals to deal with the increased work load.

Mr Mulyungi is Mwingi West Constituency Member of Parliament and former PS housing

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