President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Government recently rolled out a plan to revamp some 4 areas of Kenyan economy. In what the President called the ‘Big Four’, these areas include food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare for all.
The second pillar of this ‘Big Four’, affordable housing, could not have come at a better time. As a real estate firm, Optiven Group is always enthralled by any positive Government and Private Sector effort, to help bridge the housing deficit in Kenya.
The President made a promise: “If the fight for independence was about ownership, the dream of my generation is to make every Kenyan a property owner. Owning a decent home is a Kenyan dream. We will make that dream come true,” Uhuru Kenyatta.
This promise goes especially to those who have been paying rent. “If you rent a house in Kawangware, Kangemi, Githurai, or Dandora, then, under my Big Four plan, for the same amount of money you pay today as rent, you will be able to own your home. And it will be a decent house, built to modern standards,” Uhuru Kenyatta.
“By the end of my term, 500,000 more Kenyans will own their homes,” Uhuru Kenyatta.
In short, what the president is saying is that the Kenyan Government will be facilitating about 100,000 houses per year for the next 5 years.
Current production is less than 50,000 units. At present, Kenya has an accumulated housing deficit of over 2 million units. To keep up with the demand, 244,000 housing units in different market segments are needed annually.
But how will Kenyatta’s administration manage to achieve this dream? Kenyatta is specific on 3 areas: “We shall do this by reducing the cost of mortgages; by cutting the cost of construction through the use of innovative technologies and materials; and by raising low-cost funds from private and public sector for investment in large-scale housing construction,” Uhuru Kenyatta.
“We will review legislation on urban planning and zoning to ensure that homes remain affordable. We will continue to issue more title deeds to enable land owners to unlock the financial potential of their property,” Uhuru Kenyatta.
“In this context, we will shortly present far-reaching amendments to the laws that govern our lands and housing; and we will map and use the entirety of our strategic housing land bank,” Uhuru Kenyatta.
Effect of affordable housing efforts by the Kenyan Government:
The beauty of this plan is that it creates decent homes, jobs and a market for our manufacturers and suppliers. During construction, each of these new homes will require a mason, a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician, a painter and a welder. I urge our young people to make the most of the technical and vocational training institutions (TVETs), to acquire these skills.
We can look forward to millions of new jobs. But we will not engage our young people to build these homes as mere labour; we will develop their skills, their acumen, and their excellence.
The Kenyan Government has over the recent past been seeking collaborative approach in trying to achieve affordable housing for all. Some time back last year, during the 7th Presidential Round Table at State House, Nairobi, Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto called for a cooperative approach between the Government and Kenya’s real estate players in helping to bridge the demand-supply gap in this sector.
The Deputy President challenged the real estate players in Kenya, seeking to have them come up with a way on how Kenya can introduce a product in the region of Kshs1 million, which can be purchased on mortgage by citizens who are earning approximately Kshs 20, 000 to about Kshs 50, 000.
“We would want to benefit from your ideas as well so that we can do two things: number one, find a mechanism (on how) to do low cost housing for the urban poor and also (how we can be able to provide) affordable housing for the people whom we can put on mortgage,” said Hon. Ruto.
One of the leading real estate gurus in Kenya, George Wachiuri, Optiven Group CEO, believes that Kenya’s real estate firms, like the one that he captains, have the capacity to step in and offer the right solutions to the current housing deficit.
“It is true that Kenya has an urbanization rate of 4.4% with 61% of urban households living in slums. The good thing is that we, in the private sector, have the capacity to deliver on this area, through offering more affordable housing products to as many Kenyans, subsequently creating new jobs, deepening the financial sector and catalyzing the country’s overall economic growth both in the medium and long-term,” noted Wachiuri.
Currently, Kenya has about 24, 000 mortgages against a population of 48 million and it could just be about time the country started thinking outside the box. And the real estate players have a key role to play at this level.
Wachiuri noted that Optiven www.optiven.co.ke is already doing this by providing value-added properties and offering easy to own options on all the products under his Nairobi based firm’s catalogue. He believes that Kenya is already at the threshold of adopting affordable alternative building technology such as bricks, hollow blocks and expanded polystyrene technology. He notes that his company is already engaged in high gear in its efforts to provide affordable housing solutions in Kenya.
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