Housing cash furore a consequence of proposals deficient in firm data


Housing Principal Secretary Charles Hinga. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

The proposed housing tax bubble is in the throes of bursting. This is illustrated by the debate and opposition it is generating.

This is exposing the lack of scientific rigour and creativity that should precede conception of ideas.

Science is significant in policy generation. For it separates beliefs from facts and further enhances the understanding of social phenomena.

But a keen look at the housing tax proposal reveals subjective beliefs in the name of ‘decent’ housing.

I pick the word decent, because I’m persuaded that the application of the concept in its current context is a figment of a few government bureaucrats trying to be inventive.

Economists have interrogated cost realities of the proposal. However, emphasising only its economics disregards the social and cultural dynamics that potentially clashes with the people’s practices.

Therefore, a bit of science into the implications of the proposed tax would have yielded enough data on its likely impact on values, beliefs, and customs on housing.

Most Kenyans hold on to their indigenous ways of life and philosophies. These include cultural practices and beliefs on subsistence, production, and reproduction. How does the tax proposal respect the diverse people’s ways of life?

A house or a home is a sociocultural unit of identity, belonging and security for an African. Houses or homes are not just static physical structures with functions but are also symbolic spaces that bear people’s lives and all that define and constitute life.

In fact, they are more than spaces of deriving warmth and intimacy. For it is understood that houses also embody human histories. Some have deep attachment to their ancestral homes for the customary value and morality these structures instil and guarantee.

Hence, they spend a lot to construct their dream retirement homes. In those spaces, they can stay in touch with their departed kith and kin.

Therefore, to ask such individuals to relocate to an apartment as permanent abode is to disregard their cultural philosophies on inhabitation.

Individuals never discard these cultural models. Therefore, ignoring the people’s lived experiences and realities, as the proposed tax does, would only meet rejection.