Passaris breaks ranks with Azimio, backs controversial housing levy

Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris has broken ranks with her political coalition, Azimio la Umoja, and declared support for the housing levy contained in the controversial Finance Bill 2023.

The Raila Odinga-led Azimio is championing opposition to the proposed Finance Bill that will, among other things, force salaried Kenyans to surrender three per cent of their monthly pay to fund a government-driven housing scheme.

The scheme, according to President William Ruto, will help bridge the housing deficit in Kenya, ensuring as many Kenyans as possible live in decent houses.

However, those opposed to the proposal feel it will be an additional burden to Kenyans who are already reeling from the effects of the high cost of living as the prices of basic commodities continue to skyrocket.

Passaris, who spoke on KTN on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, morning said she supports certain aspects of Ruto’s Finance Bill, including the housing levy she said will help end slums in Nairobi.  

“I urge Kenyans to exercise patience and give Ruto some time to implement the housing plan. I think the housing project will play a crucial role in eradicating slums in the capital,” the woman representative said.

She added: “Yes, many people are shouting and complaining about the Bill. However, let me state here that there is no gain without pain. We need to eliminate slums in Nairobi and the housing plan is one way to do this. Also, the housing project has a lot of goodies that will come with it once it has been rolled out.” 

Passaris highlighted the negative consequences of slums, including increased crime and frequent fire outbreaks, that have led to the loss of life and property. She said the government’s plan to put up decent houses could just be “what the doctor ordered”.

“Slums come with many problems. Crime, illegal power and water connections are the norms. The housing project will heavily contribute to checking these challenges while creating a more conducive environment to live in and even work,” Passaris said.

She however called on the government to seal any loopholes that wayward government officials may use to siphon money from the scheme. “The government must also ensure the project is implemented fully for the benefit of our people.”

“Let us give it the benefit of the doubt, especially if the Finance Bill passes. But I hope the government will take decisive actions to address the problem of corruption,” Passaris said.

“If the government does not deal with corruption, we are going to have a big problem. No matter how much money will be collected, we will not deliver the housing scheme if corruption is allowed to thrive. We really need better housing for our people."

The Bill proposes that an employee contributes three per cent of their basic salary every month, which will be matched by the employer. The sum of the two contributions should not exceed Sh5,000, with the money going to the National Housing Development Fund.

The proposal has faced significant criticism, primarily due to its timing, coming at a time Kenyans are facing tough economic challenges.

Raila has urged MPs to reject the bill saying it is bad for Kenyans, most of whom are struggling to survive.

The ODM leader has also warned of mass action as a means of pressuring the government into withdrawing the proposal.

On Monday, Odinga termed politicians supporting the bill as enemies of the country, telling Kenyans to take note of whoever does not reject it ahead of the next elections.

"There have been all these threats but our MPs have been told to oppose the Bill fiercely. We want Kenyans to watch out keenly for whoever will support that bill because that will be an act of betraying Kenyans," said the Azimio leader.