The UN will invest Sh860 million in upgrading social amenities in Nairobi, Mombasa and Machakos counties under an urban development programme.
Kisumu County is also lined up for a Sh260 million city upgrade to be financed by the UN-Habitat, the French Development Agency and Israel.
The UN-Habitat said on Tuesday counties that had sought guidance in planning for extension of urban centres in the face of surging population.
“We will help in developing planned city and town extensions as millions of people continue moving to urban centres,” executive director Joan Clos said Tuesday during a breakfast meeting organised by the Kenya Property Developers Association.
“Without planning, the country runs the risk of ending up with an increase in the number of slum dwellers,” he noted.
On top of designing plans, the UN’s project will see upgrade of public leisure parks in city centres alongside flowerbeds along roads.
The Gigiri-based agency said that there was a need for creation of smart cities in Kenya by embracing green technology in building designs and use of renewable energy.
UN-Habitat has already partnered the national government and Machakos County to set up 2,000 low-cost housing units in Mavoko.
The units will be constructed by the National Housing Corporation using the cheaper expanded polystyrene technology which uses soft boards and wire-mesh to make floor, wall and roof panels.
The UN has been advocating adoption of eco-friendly building technologies to arrest emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.
In 2012, a UN-habitat satellite survey revealed that most cities in the sub-Saharan Africa fell short of recommended standards.
Mr Clos said that most African cities, including Nairobi had dedicated less than 10 per cent of space to streets, resulting in congestion in the central business district.
The recommended street space is about 30 per cent of an urban centre while another 20 per cent open space should be for public parks and flower gardens. Building blocks should occupy the remaining space.
Additionally, the street network should be at least 18 square kilometres to accommodate a large transport catchment.
The UN habitat said that counties could help stem the growing tide of people moving to cities and major towns by encouraging investors set up shop in sub-counties.
This, Mr Clos said, would result in new clusters and services agglomeration forestalling the exodus of people looking for jobs.
During the meeting the UN habitat signed a memorandum of understanding with KPDA for advocacy of sustainable green building designs.