The idea of owning a house remains a pipe dream for many Kenyans. With the current annual housing demand of 250,000 units (according to Habitat for Humanity) and an estimated supply of 50,000 units, there is a housing deficit of two million units, which equates to an 80 percent shortfall.
This shortage is more evident in Nairobi where people are not only unable to purchase homes but also set up their own units due to the high costs.
Interestingly, only about two percent of the formally constructed houses target lower-income families (Habitat for Humanity), resulting in most of the urban population in Kenya dwelling in informal settlements.
With the continued rise in land prices, materials, and the cost of construction, there is a fundamental problem of affordability, in that not all households can purchase or rent housing of acceptable standards for their needs.
According to the 2020 Budget Policy Statement (BPS), Treasury noted that 10 million Kenyans live in slums, which translates to 21.2 percent of the 47 million population as of the 2019 census.
Nairobi leads with 36 percent of its population living in shacks. The high number of slum dwellers and people surviving in unsafe and inadequate housing presents an opportunity for the Government of Kenya to facilitate supply of adequate and affordable housing options to the low-income earners.
This would provide an alternative to informal urban settlements and enable Wanjiku to own a home.
The Affordable Housing Programme (AHP) is an ongoing initiative by the Kenyan Government. As one of the pillars under the Big 4 Agenda. AHP ensures that low and middle-income households have access to decent and affordable housing units.
While the government has taken a very bold initiative to deliver affordable housing, some key factors need to be addressed to make this a success and ensure that all Kenyans can afford a decent modern home.
It is very important to look at affordable housing from a sustainability aspect. This combines green components such as energy efficient building design and renewable power to simultaneously cut energy burdens of residents while also increasing community resilience.
It is important to note that sustainability does not only cover the project development but also encompasses the property management of real estate.
From our experience as property managers, we have noted that many homeowners struggle to pay monthly service charges for the maintenance of the property common areas and equipment such as water storage, generators, pavements, lifts, etc. I believe a way to ease this financial burden would be to introduce revenue-generating projects within the property.
For instance, building front-end shops, a gym, or parking management services. The fees collected can be used to cater for service maintenance of the general areas, lessening the monthly service cost for homeowners.
Location of the housing projects is of equal importance in making the homes affordable. While the range of affordability has grudgingly been averaged between Sh3 million and Sh4 million, such pricing, for example, may not be ideal for individuals based outside major urban centres or low-income earners.
A great example of this is to look at the recently launched affordable housing project in Bondeni, Nakuru County, where the houses are expected to cost between Sh1.5 million and Sh4.2 million.
This project raised affordability concerns, with the local communities in the area feeling that the houses are way above the reach of the local community.
I believe it’s crucial to also look at affordability from the rent aspect. A lot of the working population is in the informal sector and may have inadequate finances to cover the required down payment to secure a home.
Through our real estate consultancy team, we can help those with limited financial resources gain access to safe, affordable homes within supportive, inclusive communities by offering rent to own which in the long run will help them become homeowners.
At LASER Property Services we have also been part of various task forces on affordable housing as we believe in advancing access to affordable housing and improved living standards.
The writer is the executive director LASER Property Services