How we can attain the noble dream of affordable housing

Building a house in Kenya is very expensive. file PHOTO | NMG
Building a house in Kenya is very expensive. file PHOTO | NMG 

As part of the Big Four agenda, the goal of providing affordable housing is noble and couldn’t have come at a better time.

Shelter, like food and clothing is one of man’s basic rights and making sure that all citizens are decently housed is a commendable goal.

The government and other stakeholders must adequately prepare and ensure that the project kicks off successfully and accomplishes its purpose.

Building a house in Kenya is awfully expensive and providing quality housing at affordable and sustainable cost will be a tall order. With all other competing needs for money, affordable housing will have to be accomplished by out of the box thinking and a critical relook at the available resources.

Land is the single most expensive component of housing. The price of land is high mainly due to speculation. This needs to be addressed such that land remains a factor of production just like capital and labour.

Government especially the counties, should provide land for housing complete with plans. As the counties are just kicking off, unlike the cities and major towns, they have room to maneuver and plan. Having a land register index and discouraging people from holding land purely for speculation purposes would also help.

Labour is a critical factor in housing. The paradox of high joblessness and unavailability of skilled artisans can’t be ignored. It contributes to poor workmanship, as evidenced by the number of collapsed buildings. The stakeholders need to train the youths not only to build but also to change their lives.

Currently many go for construction jobs as the last resort. Ensuring that they are able to save and better their lives will ensure a change of attitude. We can even rope in National Youth Service for easier and efficient engagement.

Sand and timber are also important factors. Unfortunately they are non-renewable and have contributed to the degradation of the environment. Disputes have also arisen in counties as water becomes scarce and rivers dry up.

Having guidelines that will promote water conservation will reduce the disputes. For every tree felled, efforts should be made to empower communities to plant two more for future posterity. The government and stakeholders should encourage safe alternative building materials and technologies for affordability and quick projects completion. These will help conserve the environment and also provide avenues for community participation. For instance bamboos and interlocking bricks can be provided by Saccos in rural areas.
Cement production in Kenya is pretty organised. The government should engage the producers to provide cement at an affordable cost in exchange for the huge market to be created. Building plans approval and permit expenses also contribute to the high cost of building. Where possible, the costs should be waived.
These and other factors should be considered. It should be noted that majority of people are in the informal sector and pay rent of between Sh3,000 and Sh10,000. Fine-tuning the mortgage payments to around that figure will go a long way to affordable housing. Also, as much as possible involve the people and community in the building. This will create employment and spread the economic growth.

Kariuki Gathuitu, Nairobi