Ruto should continue ignoring criticism over his housing plan


When President William Ruto laid a foundation stone during the commissioning of the Uasin Gishu affordable housing project. [PCS]

The affordable housing question is today a pressing governance issue that we cannot afford to put off for a day longer. According to findings by World Data Lab, Africa will experience its highest-ever youth population growth in this decade. Kenya will certainly not be spared, as such, enabling our young people to live in dignity is more important than ever before. With our population standing at close to 55 million, housing affordability is a major challenge, especially in the cities.

The annual housing demand today stands at 250,000 units but the market can only deliver 50,000 units which effectively leads to massive market distortions and near-market failure experiences.

The previous administration attempted to address the affordable housing issue but by the time it was winding up in 2022, only 10 per cent of the units that it had set to build had been delivered.

It’s against this backdrop that I give the President a pat on the back on his unwillingness to let this idea die in the face of the intense politicking around it. For to do so would be to let the housing issue snowball into a full-blown crisis.

Housing, as contemplated in article 43 of the Constitution, must have accessibility and affordability component. This is to say that the housing that people need and should be in tandem with housing cost and the income ratio of the people. The global permissible standards are that 30 per cent of the income should go to housing. But in Kenya, due to inadequacy of housing units, many Kenyans spend up to 50 per cent or more of their income on rent. This has caused a lot of pressure on many households.

The streamlining of the implementation of the Affordable Housing Programme, through signing into law of the Affordable Housing Act puts this noble initiative on a firmer footing as many families including low-cadre civil servants, slum dwellers will have no place to call home.

This government must do all it can, however uncomfortable to ensure no single soul, for no fault of their own is left without a roof over their head. It is a challenge that the Kenya Kwanza administration has risen to masterfully by addressing the concerns of the High Court about the previous levy’s constitutionality.

The Act therefore introduces a housing levy that will be deducted from employees’ gross monthly pay at the rate of 1.5 per cent, with a matching contribution from their employers. This is intended to provide financing for this ambitious project, catering to individuals with varying income levels.

Claims have been made to the effect that housing is a devolved function since what is today known as community land is in the hands of devolved units. A proper reading of the Constitution contemplates that the two levels of government will work in consultation and collaboration. With many county governments failing to ramp up own source revenue, it’s a good that the national government has taken the lead while providing the devolved units a role to play in the successful implantation of this programme.

The act stipulates the land acquisition and regulation framework, the mechanism of upgrading property tenures, the financing models, the design and development costs. It further handles demand side issues such as how to determine eligibility for affordable housing, the range of tenure models for different demographics and providing appropriate access to credit.

Affordable housing, we must remember, is not just a matter of economic necessity. It goes to the very heart of the realisation of social-economic rights anticipated in the Constitution and in the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These obligations should be pursued and met for the collective glory of Kenya.

Mr Kidi is the convenor Inter Parties Youth Forum. [email protected]