REAL ESTATE

Hindrance and possible solutions to affordable housing

The location of the housing projects is of equal importance in making the homes affordable.

In Summary
  • It is very important to look at affordable housing from a sustainability aspect.
  • 10 million Kenyans live in slums, which translates to 21.2% of the population
Ongoing construction of the Pangani Affordable Housing Programme on January 21, 20222
Ongoing construction of the Pangani Affordable Housing Programme on January 21, 20222
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

The idea of owning a house has become a pipe dream for many Kenyans.

With the current housing demand of 250,000 units (according to Habitat for Humanity) and only an estimated supply of 50,000 units, there is a housing deficit of two million units which equates to an 80 per cent deficit in housing.

This shortage is more evident in Nairobi where people are not only unable to purchase but also build their own homes due to the high costs.

Interestingly, only about two per cent of the formally constructed houses target lower-income families (Habitat for Humanity), resulting in most of the urban population in Kenya living 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 afford to buy 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 per cent of its population living in slums. The high number of slum dwellers and people living in unsafe and inadequate housing presents an opportunity for the Government of Kenya to facilitate the supply of adequate and affordable housing options to the low-income earners.

This would provide an alternative to informal urban settlements and enable the average Kenyan to afford a home.

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 housing project 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.

Sustainable affordable housing combines green affordable housing components like energy-efficient building design and renewable energy to simultaneously decrease the 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 the real estate.

From our experience as property managers, we have noted that many homeowners struggle to pay the 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 can be collected can be used to cater to the service maintenance of the general areas, lessening the monthly service cost for homeowners.

The 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 centers 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 1.5 million and 4.2 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 fully support affordable housing options by being in and fully empowering Kenyans to secure land tenure through innovative mechanisms of land ownership.

We are in discussions with some of our major clients to come up with unique financing options for instance offering pension-backed mortgages which would be paid at no interest and on a flexible payment.

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