Decent housing for all is fundamental to national prosperity
By Kizito Temba | June 24th 2019
Of all of the tenets of the Big Four Agenda, affordable housing is the most critical one in my eyes. Uhuru’s Affordable Housing Programme (AHP) was created to address the need for proper shelter throughout Kenya.
With two major housing construction schemes in the pipeline in just one week, it looks as though the president is putting his money where his mouth is.
Quality, decent housing for all is fundamental to national prosperity. Without reliable shelter for Kenyan families, working parents and young adults won’t be able to deliver professionally. In terms of economic development, it is fundamental for everything.
Uhuru recently signed two major deals to begin new housing construction. The first was signed during the UN Habitat Assembly in Gigiri, with the United Nations Office for Projects Service (UNOPS) and Sustainable Housing Solutions (SHS).
It will see the construction of 100,000 energy-efficient homes for the economically disadvantaged over the coming years.
Uhuru has recognised the importance of green construction here as we work towards our development goals - every new endeavour or newly created infrastructure in Kenya should be keeping sustainability in mind if we are to be a global leader in the coming decades.
The project is labour intensive and costly, but the investment will create innumerable valuable returns. As Transport and Infrastructure Housing CS James Macharia noted, the project will reduce unemployment by creating at least 3,000 jobs.
This means employment not only for construction workers, but also those skilled in or looking to build skills in logistics, supply and administration.
The partnership will see a great deal of UN investment in the actual construction of the houses, while the government will oversee the development of necessary supporting infrastructure, including roads, water supply and waste management systems.
Private capital will be invested into the construction of these 100,000 homes in order to improve the capacity of local municipalities to attract investment and boost living standards.
The second recent project that the AHP has in the pipeline is with Singaporean based construction company AFRA Holdings. The construction of 8,888 affordable home units in 100 acres in Mavoko, Machakos County will also be established with green development in mind.
Construction is set to begin in September and will be completed within 40 to 60 months. This may take us well into the following presidential administration, reflecting the fact that Uhuru is more interested in working towards Kenya’s long term development than he is in getting involved in divisive 2022 politics.
The projects should be instrumental in changing Kenya’s economic landscape, by restoring dignity to those who currently do not have access to clean and stable shelter.
It opens up a cornucopia of further possibilities from those who will benefit, both the residents of the new homes and all those involved in their construction.
The other components of the Big Four - universal healthcare, food nutrition, and more robust local manufacturing - are being developed in tandem with housing.
Uhuru has identified each as having pivotal significance to the other components. While the implementation of the Big Four will always be accompanied by budgetary demands, it is important that we never forget the bigger picture.
The more we invest today in working towards our development goals, the more likely we will be to pass on a highly economically developed Kenya to our children.
Therefore it appears to me that recent criticisms of loans that the Kenyan government has taken out either reflect a lack of understanding about how investing in the economy works, or they are personal attacks on Uhuru disguised as criticisms of his policy.
Of course, it would be hard to find someone today in Kenya that could doubt the positive outcome of these two housing projects, since their development is based on visionary green city principles and putting roofs over our heads.
It is another example for the rest of Africa and a demonstration to the world that Uhuru’s commitment to an environmentally conscious Kenya is serious.
We now know that there is no stronger match in the 21st century than sustainability and economic development. The basis of it is affordable, stable housing for all.
Mr Temba is a communication consultant
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