The idea of owning a home remains a pipe dream for many Kenyans. With current annual housing demand of 250,000 units (according to Habitat for Humanity) and an estimated supply of 50,000 units, there is a housing deficit of two million units, which equates to a shortfall by 80%.
This shortage is most evident in Nairobi where people are not only unable to buy houses but also to create their own units due to high costs.
Interestingly, only about 2% of formally built houses target low-income families (Habitat for Humanity), resulting in most of Kenya’s urban population living in informal settlements.
With the continuing rise in prices of land, materials and the cost of construction, there is a fundamental problem of affordability, in that not all households can buy or rent housing of acceptable standards for their needs.
According to the Fiscal Policy Statement (BPS) 2020, the Treasury noted that 10 million Kenyans live in slums, representing 21.2% of the 47 million population at the 2019 census.
Nairobi leads with 36% of its population living in shacks. The high number of slum dwellers and people surviving in unsafe and inadequate housing presents an opportunity for the Government of Kenya to facilitate the provision of adequate and affordable housing options to low-income people.
This would provide an alternative to informal urban settlements and allow Wanjiku to own a home.
The Affordable Housing Program (AHP) is an ongoing initiative of the Kenyan government. As one of the pillars of the Big 4 Agenda. AHP works to ensure that low and middle income households have access to decent and affordable housing.
While the government has taken a very bold step to provide affordable housing, some key factors need to be considered to make it a success and ensure that all Kenyans can afford a modern and decent home.
It is very important to look at affordable housing from a sustainability perspective. This combines green components such as energy-efficient building design and renewable energy to simultaneously reduce residents’ energy loads while increasing community resilience.
It is important to note that sustainability does not only cover the development of the project, but also encompasses the property management of the properties.
From our experience as property managers, we have found that many landlords struggle to afford monthly service fees for maintaining common areas of the property and amenities such as water storage, generators, sidewalks, elevators, etc. task would be to introduce income-generating projects within the property.
For example, the construction of front shops, a gym or parking management services. Fees collected can be used to maintain general area services, reducing the monthly service cost for owners.
The location of housing projects is of equal importance in making homes affordable. Although the affordability range was reluctantly set at 3 million to 4 million shillings, such pricing, for example, may not be ideal for people based outside major urban centers or those on low incomes.
A good example of this is to look at the recently launched affordable housing project in Bondeni, County Nakuru, where houses are expected to cost between 1.5 and 4.2 million shillings.
This project has raised affordability issues, with local communities in the area feeling that the houses are well beyond the reach of the local community.
I think it’s crucial to also look at affordability from a rent perspective. Much of the labor force is in the informal sector and may have insufficient finances to cover the down payment required to secure a house.
Through our real estate advisory team, we can help people with limited financial resources access safe and affordable housing in supportive and inclusive communities by offering rent-to-own options that, in the long term, will help to become owners.
At LASER Property Services, we have also served on various Affordable Housing Task Forces because we believe in improving access to affordable housing and improving living standards.
The writer is the executive director of LASER Property Services