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Inside sluggish Sh883b slum upgrading programme

By Mwangi Muiruri | Nov 28th 2019 | 5 min read
By Mwangi Muiruri | November 28th 2019
A slum along the railway line in Nairobi’s Kibera area in this skyline photo taken on September 27, 2016. [Jacob Otieno, Standard]

The Government insists that its Sh883 billion Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (Kensup) is on track despite delays. Established in 2003, it was scheduled to be realised by 2020.

And despite an economy widely acknowledged to be in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) owing to poor fiscal discipline, corruption and over-borrowing, Housing Secretary Patrick Bucha told Home & Away that “the programme is not dead” and that “it is on course.”

Another delay front in implementation has been numerous litigations from interested parties and tussles in contracting. Slums upgrading programme Director Charles Sikuku says the agenda is still on and will be rolling out its phase two schedule by coming February.

Sikuku says the project has slowed down because of a vicious cycle where the government upgrades a slum, but informal settlements come up again in a different locality.

It is the reason, he says, the Government adopted policies in 2005 to help it not only eradicate slums, but also prevent their formation.

“For instance, in our future projects, we plan to make the beneficiaries sign contracts that will make it hard for them to sell or sub-let their property once upgraded and handed over,” says Shikuku.

Asked whether the programme has been rendered obsolete by the Big Four Housing Agenda, Bucha said: “No, the slum upgrading programme is on course, but the Housing Agenda of the Big Four is a complimentary social programme that seeks to improve quality of tenancy for all through building of adequate affordable housing units to suit class.”

Struggling to raise capital to execute the Kensup agenda, the Government reviewed its action plan and introduced the Kenya Informal Settlement Improvement Project (Kisip) that sought to partner with donors as opposed to the original plan where it intended to foot the entire upgrading budget.

The ministry says a new implementation plan under the Kisip programme is ongoing and has since been pioneered in Nairobi’s Kibra slums where phase one has consumed Sh2.9 billion.

Nakuru County is set to benefit from Sh758 million, an amount which will be sourced from the World Bank and will be used in the construction of roads, lighting and sanitation works in Kwa Rhoda, Gilani and Kaptembwa informal settlements.

A press release said phase two of the project would benefit Naivasha Sub-county where projects worth Sh1 billion will be undertaken to upgrade informal settlements.

Partnering institution, National Housing Corporation, will construct 700 housing units in two phases where phase I comprises 100 units while phase II has 600 units in Kanyakwar, Kisumu County at a total cost of Sh2.6billion.

An aerial view of the upgraded Kibra Soweto East Zone A with the backdrop of yet to be upgraded Soweto Zone B in Kibera slums, Nairobi County on July 16, 2016. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

This is unlike the initial projection that pursued results by 2010, In this plan, Nairobi and its dormitory towns, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret were supposed to have experienced the previous Kensup rebirth by 2017. These areas host 75 per cent of slum dwellers.

Upon full actualisation, Kibra was supposed to have assumed a new modern estate look for the benefit of the estimated 500,000 inhabitants.

Coming as a multi-pronged programme that was to overhaul the shelter sub-sector of the housing industry, the Kensup emphasis was premised on delivering the housing related Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and upon full implementation, post its results in 2020, which is only a month away. This is the year when Kenya is estimated to be home to 5.4 million slum dwellers.

According to ministry sources, the Kensup agenda has since been reviewed to last till 2025 and the Kisip agenda looped into Vision 2030 housing agenda as well as some components being taken up under the wings of the Big Four housing agenda.

The Government and the UN-Habitat had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on February 15, 2003, concentrating on slums within Nairobi, Mavoko, Mombasa and Kisumu.

The budget for the Kensup project was Sh522bn for Nairobi slums and Sh1.6 billion for Thika. Ruiru Municipality was scheduled to receive Sh9.9 billion with Ongata Rongai gobbling Sh8 billion. Mavoko was earmarked to benefit from Sh4.03 billion with Mombasa Municipality getting an allocation of Sh114 billion, Nakuru Sh27 billion, Kisumu Sh28 billion and Eldoret consuming Sh20 billion.

The remaining slums tucked in various parts of the country were to share out the remaining Sh136 billion.

It is thought that the programme suffered its biggest upset after violence erupted in the country immediately after the disputed 2007 general elections, which disrupted the earlier projected budgetary allocations of consistent Sh44 billion funding per year to implement the programme.

It looks, however, like the Government is intent on putting the programme back on course.

While campaigning for the Kibra by-election that saw his preferred candidate MCDonald Mariga lose to ODM’s Imran Okoth, Deputy President William Ruto said the Government targets rehabilitating 4.3 million slum house units in the next 10 years, with at least 1.7 million of them being in the metropolitan zone.

“In the target, 300,000 units will be ready for occupancy in the next two years,” he said. He said 812 housing units would be constructed in Kibra slum by the end of this year, which will benefit 4,000 families. Mr Bucha says the social housing improvement programme will cater for those earning up to Sh19,999 per month while the low cost housing will cater for people earning between Sh20,000 to Sh49,999 per month.

“Mortgage Gap Housing will cater for those earning between Sh50,000 to Sh149,999 per month while middle to high income housing will cater for those whose monthly income is Sh150,000 and above,” he says.

However, despite the time frames being released regarding this slum upgrade programmes, several institutional and program design challenges have been cited that hinder successful implementation.

A research paper (KENSUP/KISIP 2018) into the issue submitted by Mark Anderson and Keziah Mwelu, pointed out that whereas the programmes are designed with community participation as a key element, public participation seems flawed.

“This in that the communities targeted by the project do not seem to have been fully engaged. For example, Kibra residents say the Government did not involve them in setting up the rent rates. Kisip, though meant to utilise civil society organisations to mobilise communities, did not do so. The Ministry of Housing implements the projects; it directs all activities and has to approve all budgets including those by municipalities,” they said.

Another challenge is a coordination problem. Although the Kensup and Kisip projects are run by the same ministry and target related issues, they rarely seem to feed into each other and there there is no clear link on how the projects should complement each other.

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