Olivia Sandra, 25, lives in a one-bedroom house in Embakasi, Nairobi, with her husband and their daughter. They pay Sh14,000 in rent.
Sandra, who is expecting the couple’s second child, does not wish to be a tenant for the rest of her life. When Home & Away met her last week at a homes expo in Nairobi, she was collecting brochures from different stands, which she would add to her growing list of ‘home’ collections.
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“I have no illusions as to the kind of a house I want,” she said, her index finger tapping a well-designed home on the glossy brochure. “My four-bedroom house will be in a quiet neighbourhood in the outskirts of the city. It will have a small garden, children’s play area and a swimming pool. An open plan kitchen and a spacious lounge will be part of the home’s interior,” she said.
But she has a problem. Such a home is out of her reach at present. She said she could not save enough money for a house from her current job.
Sandra is among the many young people who can only watch as the rich splash cash on palatial homes and other forms of property they hardly need. To her, chances of young Kenyans owning a home are very slim.
Many young people like Sandra cite access to finance, high cost of land, lack of collateral and high property prices as the biggest hurdles to their home ownership dreams.
Yet, various industry reports have indicated that Kenya’s robust real estate market is driven by young people aged between 21 and 35.
But such reports have not meant much to the youth, such as Maxine Otieno, a 24-year-old who lives in a bedsitter in Riruta Satellite, Nairobi.
After she graduated a with a degree in public administration from Moi University two years ago, Maxine had high hopes that she would get a nice job and own a home in a serene neighbourhood a few years later. That has not happened.
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“Developers in Kenya are driven more by profits than a real desire to house people, especially the younger generation. If prices were right, I would consider buying a house and avoid the hassle that comes with construction,” says Maxine.
Feeling the pressure
In some instances, lack of proper housing among the younger generation has come in the way of establishing a family. Young men, in particular, feel the pressure that a lack of adequate housing brings.
This is the predicament that faces Robert Oluoch, a 33-year-old who lives in a one-bedroom house in Ngong, Kajiado County. A graduate civil engineer currently working as a supervisor in construction projects, Robert is single, but not by choice. Lack of an affordable family home stands in his way.
“I want to marry but I am scared. I had told myself that I should be a homeowner before she comes but it looks unlikely at the moment. Home financing options are too costly while land and construction costs are prohibitive,” he says.
Some youth, though, are calling on their peers to change focus from owning a home in the city to looking in the counties.
Bobby Tsuma, a 20-year-old real estate student at Kenyatta University, says counties hold the promise of home ownership as houses are relatively cheaper there than in major urban areas. He says in a county like Makueni, an acre, which goes for more than Sh20 million in many urban centres, costs about Sh80,000.
“As much as I would love to have a home in Nairobi, it is currently not feasible. On the other hand, if the Government transfers more funds to the counties, it would make it attractive for young people to move there and establish themselves,” he says.
The Kenya Economic Update report on the housing situation in Kenya released last year by the World Bank shows that though developers are busy on the ground, they have consistently shunned the lower market segment, which is where most new income earners are found.
Titled, Housing: Unavailable and Unaffordable, the report says more than 80 per cent of house supply is for the upper-middle-income and high-income earners, with only two per cent for the lower-income segments of the population.
“The lowest price for a house built by a developer cost Sh1,342,106 in December 2012. But (today), there is almost no supply on the market for less than Sh4 million, especially in Nairobi,” says the report.
For many youth, the Government’s new initiative to construct 500,000 houses in the next four years might be their lifeline.
Charles Hinga, the Housing principal secretary, says while developers will do the actual construction, the Government will guarantee total uptake of the homes that would then be allocated to deserving people through a balloting system.
Mr Hinga says through agencies like the National Housing Development Fund, Kenyans of all economic levels can buy the homes, whose prices would be between Sh600,000 and Sh2 million.
“We want to make it possible for one to own a home by paying the same amount that one is paying for rent currently. We want one’s savings to go towards home ownership,” he says.
But until the first house under this arrangement gets off the ground, young people will continue clutching at straws as far as home ownership is concerned.