In the public sector, though, incomes have risen by 4.5 per cent to Sh33,179, but this is hardly enough to afford an ideal standard of living.

For instance, the Central Bank of Kenya’s (CBK) 2014 mortgage survey released last year indicates the number of mortgages in the country stand at a dismal 22,013.

This slow uptake has been attributed to long repayment periods, low incomes and job insecurity. The average mortgage is Sh7.5 million, with an average interest rate of 15 per cent.

In fact, financial providers often find themselves writing off outstanding debts, with CBK stating that non-performing mortgage loans grew 27 per cent between 2013 and 2014 to stand at Sh10.8 billion.

This has led to existing housing systems in many urban areas being dominated by informality, both in the type of settlement structure and access to services like electricity and water.

Low-income earners and the urban poor find their options for housing remain limited to the amount of money they can afford to pay in rent each year.

As a result, the World Bank states that many as six in 10 residents in Kenya’s urban areas live in “housing that would be defined as a slum under the Millennium Development Goals.”

Parking fees

World Bank’s country director for Kenya, Diarietou Gaye, added that while there is an opportunity to enhance urban development, Kenya’s housing policies lack a framework to facilitate affordable, quality housing for low-income earners.

“One of the challenges we are facing is the growth of informal settlements, as well as a lack of clear policies in housing,” she said.

“The prices of land prevent people from having a good place to live and access their places of work, which are concentrated in urban areas.”

Further illustrating the country’s urban problems is parking. In 2008, the then Nairobi City Council set parking fees within the city at Sh70. In the last eight years, however, this figure has doubled twice, with motorists currently paying Sh300 for space that has barely increased. Administrators are pushing for yet another price hike, and hope to extend their reach to residential estates.

Today, the availability of parking spaces is a key determining factor in the uptake of property in the city, a factor that has led to the steady shift of big firms away from premises in the city centre to zones like Upper Hill, Westlands and Ngong Road.

The pressures exerted by the expansion of Kenya’s urban counties will also be felt in the provision of social services, which will lead to an increase in development expenditure in the health and education sectors.

Data from KNBS indicates that the rate of pupil enrolment in early childhood development centres has grown 25 per cent in the last five years. The number of trained teachers, on the other hand, has grown 20 per cent.

Kenya’s teacher:pupil ratio, one of the key indicators of education quality, currently stands at around 86:1, more than doubling from 34:1 in 2002, largely fuelled by the introduction of free primary education.

But the teacher shortages in public schools has seen parents who can afford it move their children to private schools.

However, this trend, flagged by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) last month, not only commercialises education and erodes standards, but also creates an unfair system that favours pupils from rich backgrounds in future higher learning and employment opportunities.

Solutions to this and other adverse effects of urbanisation in the country’s new urban centres are available, but will only be effective if executed efficiently.

The World Bank has identified the country’s devolved system as key to establishing fairness in the urbanisation process and reducing inequalities in land and property access.

In the short term, the measures each county can implement include establishing urban and planning offices with a strong online presence.

County residents and investors should also get access to property legislation, with the process of complying with regulatory requirements made easier for the latter.

In the medium to long term, the World Bank has recommended the development of model legislation for zoning by-laws, development controls and decision-making approval processes, as well as third-party development control watchdogs at the community level.

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