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Private sector developers want a seat on ‘affordable housing’ table

By Remie Otieno

Stakeholders in the built environment want a lead role in the implementation of the affordable housing agenda, without this, they believe genuine opportunities to meet the country’s housing shortage will be lost.

Kenya’s housing deficit is estimated at 2 million units, according to figures by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) with the soaring demand being met by scant new supply.

That shortfall is not likely to be met, according to private developers who want a central say to drive the agenda to fruition.

They are now calling on the next administration to focus on implementing fiscal, social and economic policies – whose presence they believe will bring down the high cost of construction materials and lower interest rates on home loans.

“Allowing private developers to put up low-cost housing units by encouraging favorable policies, will not only boost the agenda but also promote adoption of low-cost housing technologies, standards for building materials and lowering interest rates on loans,” said housing developer, Mizizi Africa Homes CEO, George Mburu.

Adding that such a move ensures more people have access to capital in unlocking homeownership opportunities.

Nickson Otieno, the Chief executive of Niko Green – a tech-based company involved in macroclimate and sustainable solutions, says that the current architectural blueprint under the affordable housing plan by the State, is not ‘ideal’ for social living based on their designs and that the government should instead engage local developers and stakeholders in modifying some of the models proposed.

“Engagements and collaboration in terms of designs and other areas like costs of building materials are necessary if this dream is to be met,” says Otieno.

Similar concerns were also shared by Florence Nyole, an architect and President of East Africa Institute of Architects.

“The focus should be on social housing rather than affordable housing because most Kenyans who need these houses are likely to miss out from the programme. Equally, most of these housing units’ designs do not conform to current social needs for the target market,” she said in an earlier interview.

Affordable housing are units that are reasonably priced for individuals with median household income and do not cost so much that a household is unlikely to meet other basic needs on a sustainable basis.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on December 12, 2017 in his Jamhuri Day celebrations speech at Kasarani Stadium, promised to make each Kenyan a home owner by the end of his second term – but that promise is unlikely to be met according to industry players who termed it “a long shot.”

The programme – now on its sixth year since its formal launch, was expected to be a reality before President Kenyatta leaves office in August this year. As of September 28, 2021, at least 2,235 affordable housing units had been occupied even though construction works were underway on many other projects against a target of 500,000 units in a five-year deadline.

Of the 2,235 occupied units in the country, 1,730 are at Park Road, Ngara, 250 in the Kisumu civil servants housing project, 152 in Machakos and 463 in Mavoko.

The delay in the delivery of the programme has largely been fingered on challenges by the Coronavirus pandemic – which slowed economic growth, focus on elections campaigns and other macroeconomic setbacks like the Russian invasion of Ukraine are among factors, with private developers now keen to take over.

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