Health & Fitness

State must ensure that rural citizens gain from affordable housing


77-year-old Leonida Ajiambo is all smiles after well-wishers led by Busia governor's wife, Mrs Judy Ojaamong, built her this new house after her dilapidated grass-thatched house collapsed in 2017. PHOTO | GAITANO PESSA | NATION MEDIA GROUP



  • Because housing as a parameter is a proximal determinant to academic performance, health, family size, access to utilities etcetera, we need to ensure it reaches all Kenyans.

Lawyer-turned-politician Otiende Amollo has been quietly engaged on a transformative project in his rural constituency. Dubbed Ondoa Nyasi, the initiative seeks to help destitute constituents living in derelict houses achieve decent accommodation. They are moved from grass-thatched houses, into mabati ones.

The last I checked, a month ago, his team was unveiling the 50th house. His efforts have drawn mixed reactions online. One section scorning at the mud-walled mabati roofed houses, suggesting instead, stone walled ones would have been better. Others praise him for the initiative.

What stood out for me, is that unlike other similar projects, the MP was building the houses with participation of the community and owners. To the best of my knowledge it is privately funded.

Whether it’s a political or non-political campaign, the initiative necessitates a debate on the ongoing affordable housing scheme. The question is whether as currently structured, the projects are targeting the right people, and why ordinary rural folks are excluded?

For those working and championing the affordable housing vision, a look at the Kenya demographic and household survey and the Kenya National Housing & Population survey 2019 is highly recommended. The housing sections tell inequality stories across counties.

Because housing as a parameter is a proximal determinant to academic performance, health, family size, access to utilities etcetera, we need to ensure it reaches all Kenyans. At present, the scheme is inequitably designed, with the ongoing pilots not working towards resolving this disparity.

The Big Four Agenda housing efforts and affordable housing resources are skewed in favour of urban areas, with Nairobi taking the lion’s share. We must all agree that the scheme is targeting the wrong citizens. Ideally, it should have started from the poorest, since they are more and their needs also much lower. I have seen what Sh50,000 can do towards owning a decent home upcountry. The same does not apply in urban areas.

With vast sections of our population living in rural and emerging townships, this group is excluded from accessing the crafted strategies. They certainly cannot qualify for State mortgages. The focus seems to be in stone houses prioritisation, failing to recognise the stepwise transitioning to such houses, is not an instant phenomenon

Depending on your socio-economic standing, the home ownership journey is usually decades long. Very few people jump straight to their ideal home.

Mr Amollo’s approach, represents a transitional step in the hard climb to owning a decent house. The typical shift is from mud-walled grass thatched, to mud-walled mabati and ultimately to brick or stone walls. Most Kenyans are not at the bricks/stones end.

The government needs to reassess how to ease house ownership for rural areas as well. For starters, rural communities State backed mortgages would not be a bad idea. A five-year roofing and wall improvement loan for rural areas is an option.