How to reduce costs of owning a home

Boma Yangu affordable houses under construction in Ngara, Nairobi. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The realisation of affordable housing is not only among the Kenya Kwanza administration’s main agenda, it is also a fulfilment of the constitution.

However, the costs of a house are still far beyond the reach of a bigger percentage of Kenyans. The costs, though, can be drastically reduced, property experts say.

“The cost of owning a house in Nairobi and other urban centres is determined by the cost of construction, the cost of land, the interest rates on mortgage”, says Charles Ayoro, expert on real estate business.

Ayoro, an economist, says the government was constructing houses for purchase at prices below market rates.

This increased the supply and availability of houses at affordable prices to majority of middle-class earners and for people doing medium-scale businesses.

The path taken by the previous administration of affordable houses is being continued by the Kenya Kwanza government, aimed at reducing the cost of buying houses.

The housing levy is meant to achieve this, even though it has generated a lot of heat among Kenyans, says Ayoro. 

The government has indicated it will ensure majority of Kenyans are empowered to own houses by constructing houses that will be purchased at affordable rates. 

According to Sarah Aluoch, the CEO of Sarahfine Investments, the government can create mortgage bonds so that citizens invest to raise money for developing houses at affordable rates.

She says this can be an alternative to the housing tax. Bonds are cheaper compared to loans, she notes. 

Cramped flats at Pipeline estate in Embakasi, Nairobi, August 4, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

“Transport systems also play a role in reducing the cost of owning a house in towns.

“Access to transportation makes far-flung areas inhabitable, increasing the supply of housing at cheaper rates,” says Ayoro.

The perennial housing problem in various parts of the country is a cause to worry everybody including policy makers and implementers, he notes.

The inadequate supply of houses has been worsened by the fact that up to 500,000 Kenyans move to urban centres in search of jobs annually.

For this reason, the government has laid an appropriate foundation to transform the country’s housing sector.

Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company (KMRC) was established to work with banking sector and co-operatives through Saccos to provide finance for those wishing to own houses, Ayoro says.

It was to extend the duration of housing loans from the current seven years to at least 20 years. KMRC’s mortgage interest rates are at single digit.

The government should be more innovative in exploring workable ways to encourage private firms to build cheap houses, says Aluoch.

It should, for instance, improve building technologies to bring down the cost of construction, including cost of land.

Kenya’s first medium-term goal of 2009/2012 of Vision 2030 strategy had a target of increasing housing production from 35,000 to 200,000 annually.

The high cost of land in urban centres has discouraged developers form building houses for the low-income population.

The government can build houses and sell to potential buyers if proper mechanism is put in place to reduce the costs of construction and materials, building experts say.