Want to own a home? The State has you in mind

By - Jan 1st 1970

I have been following home ownership trends as I prepare to be a homeowner before my looming retirement from formal employment. The reality appears to be that home ownership is a pipe-dream for many because of  highly varying interest rates and houses priced beyond the reach of the majority of Kenyans. Do we have hope of ever owning a home?

Ezekiel, Nairobi

There could be hope and some light at the end of the tunnel, if promises by the government are anything to go by.

Recent statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics paint employed Nairobians as "career tenants", with 86.4 per cent of households living in rented houses.

Recently, Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge said that 99.3 per cent of bank accounts countrywide had deposits of less than Sh1 million. That means only about 350,000 Kenyans have over Sh1 million in bank savings.

In an ambitious plan to construct 20,000 affordable houses annually and 500,000 houses in five years, the government has come up with ways of enticing private developers. It has also sought ways of encouraging home buyers with capped house prices and flexible low interest mortgage and payment options.

For instance, the government, under the Affordable Housing Programme (AHP), has promised to provide free land to developers who can construct over 100 housing units – a sweetener to investors as the cost of land alone accounts for about 40 per cent of the total cost of building a house.

Such developers have more to celebrate as construction materials will be zero-rated and their corporate tax burden reduced to 15 per cent down from 30 per cent. The government will also develop infrastructure such as roads, sewer lines, and provide electricity to reduce the cost of construction to below 25 per cent. Under the AHP, approval of building plans will also be fast-tracked to curb delays that may lead to increased costs.

The National Housing Corporation may also make houses cheaper as it seeks to adopt pocket-friendlier construction technologies such as reinforced concrete, prefabricated panels and interlocking bricks. The AHPs also target using expanded polystyrene panels, precast concrete panels and fibro cement building techniques.

It is also advisable for those seeking to buy cheaper houses to try out Boma Yangu – an initiative by the Ministry of Housing. Citizens are required to input their details and select how they want to contribute for a house as a single contributor or jointly with a spouse.

There is also the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company (KMRC) which mainly promotes standardised lending practices across market players through set eligibility criteria for refinance. KMRC was established to refinance, and de-risk primary mortgage lenders like commercial banks, Saccos and microfinance banks to lend homeowners at lower rates.

- The writer is an advocate of the High Court.

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