EDITORIAL: High number of dangerous buildings a wake-up call

Tenants remove their property from their flats in Kasarani, Nairobi, after one of the pillars developed cracks. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Tenants remove their property from their flats in Kasarani, Nairobi, after one of the pillars developed cracks. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

In civilised societies, buildings are constructed to outlive generations. And often, this investment is meant to benefit a nation and families more in the future even than the present.

In a nutshell, construction forms a basis for capital formation and production—and more immediately, housing a population in healthy, safe and comfortable environment.

Most countries consider building a one-off activity that should be done to perfection. But while people from London, Rome to Croatia are still living in centuries-old homes, Kenyans are busy building what can only be termed semi-permanent structures in the name of flats and apartments meant to house the masses. In most part this is a response to a housing deficit put at 150,000 annually.

The National Buildings Inspectorate, a unit of the Transport ministry’s report published on Tuesday, brings out the sad state of affairs in the housing sector.

The life threatening dangers it poses to thousands of hapless Kenyans. It says 650 buildings countrywide are unfit for human habitation. Some 388 of these are in Nairobi’s Huruma estate where fatalities have already been witnessed following the collapse of flats. Others are mainly at Thika Road, Pipeline, Baba Dogo and Dagoretti estates.

The inspectorate quite rightly says the buildings must come down. While that amounts to great loss at a personal level, largely emanating from negligence and mediocrity at various layers, we cannot gamble lives at the altar of greed.

We must protect poor Kenyans by completing the slow demolition process swiftly.  So far, less than 40 have been brought down which is a pity.

But even as we condemn the buildings, let the relevant institutions help crank up capacity of technical people and professionals to help address the national housing deficit in a prudent way.

In this vein, we wish to acknowledge the National Construction Authority and other agencies that have ditched the bulldozer mentality to help workers and professionals in the sector upgrade skills for the benefit of the entire economy. 

We must get rid of bad construction, but offering an alternative will more useful. Let our stock of houses be put up to last generations.