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Editorials

EDITORIAL: Ensure sale of low-cost houses is transparent

low cost housing project
A worker at a low cost housing project in Ngara, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The sale of 1,370 low-cost houses to civil servants under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s affordable housing programme gets under way soon, going by the latest official communication. The plan is expected to net a total of Sh5 billion from the sale of units of between one and three bedrooms, currently at various stages of construction in Nairobi, Embu, Machakos, Kiambu and Kisumu.

In Nairobi, where 548 low-cost units are under construction, a one–bedroomed house will sell at Sh1.5 million while a two-bedroom unit will go for between Sh2 million and Sh3 million and a three-bedroomed house for between Sh3.5 million and Sh4 million. That means more Kenyans will have a decent chance of owning a home in the capital. However, as always, this will be dependent on whether the system is run transparently and is made sustainable in the long run.

In Embu where 220 such units are available, civil servants will pay Sh3.5 million for two-bedroom houses while a three bed-room house with a master en-suite bedroom will cost Sh4.8 million. The prices are not very different in Machakos, while in Kisumu and Kiambu, the costs will range between Sh2.25 million and Sh5.4 million.

The step by government to make these disclosures is laudable and we hope the entire sale process will be transparent and beneficial to the deserving cases. Past efforts to provide low-cost housing, especially around informal settlements, have proved shambolic because the units ended up in the hands of the rich, and more often, top government officials who were outside the target bracket.

It is therefore important for the government to get it right to inspire confidence and also to demonstrate that indeed the system benefits the right target owners. The Housing ministry must do things differently this time so that only deserving cases benefit.

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Applicants should be vetted comprehensively and regular follow-ups made to ensure that the units are occupied by the allotted persons and not abused for other illicit commercial purposes. It is also critical that beneficiaries keep up payments regularly to create a revolving fund that will benefit future generations.

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