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November 21, 2018

Kenya joins Africa in a new plan for affordable housing

Kirichwa Shelters. Photo/File
Kirichwa Shelters. Photo/File

THE African Union for Housing Finance, an umbrella body of stakeholders in supply of houses in Africa, has backed well-restructured public-private partnerships to deliver affordable units.

AUHF – bringing together mortgage financiers, building societies, housing corporations and other stakeholders – has said houses on market are beyond the reach of majority of households.

At the 31st conference and annual general meeting on October 26-28 in Durban, South Africa, the group singled out high interest and taxation rates as major challenges to delivering affordable housing.

Other hurdles include unfavourable monetary, housing and land policies.

The housing supply practitioners adopted a seven-point ‘Durban Declaration’ to address the gaping mismatch in supply and demand.

They pledged to develop affordable housing finance products to respond to the reality of informal markets. They will also mobilise long term equity and debt capital to enable developers to grow their capacity to operate at scale.

“Investment in innovative, low cost technologies and technical support to the housing sector can enable a new standard of affordability to meet the needs of our majority,” the group said in a statement following the meeting.

“We need to acknowledge the housing affordability reality with more realistic land use planning frameworks and delivery by-laws, and with innovative financial products that understand and respond directly to the capacities of the market.”

Kenya was represented by five officials of local-based firms in the meeting that brought together 47 members drawn from 17 African countries. The United Kingdom and the United States also attended.

They are George Kinyanjui [National Housing Corporation Kenya], Sam Waweru [Housing Finance Group], James Mugerwa[Shelter Afrique], Ruth Odera of Habitat for Humanity International and William Britt Gwinner of the International Finance Corporation.

The forum heard the mismatch between supply and demand is increasingly exerting pressure on cities.

According to the African Development Bank, Kenya has the third largest housing backlog estimated at 2.1 million, and which is growing at 200,000 units every year.

Only Nigeria at 17 million units and South Africa at 2.1 million units rank higher than Kenya.

“Governments across Africa should streamline and prioritise their land legal frameworks, establishing and improving appropriate and sustainable titling systems, ensuring security of tenure, and clarifying and upholding rights of occupation and use, all in favour of effective housing market,” the AUHF said.

The AUHF members also called on the governments to extend value added tax reliefs to newly-constructed housing units for targeted households.

Full subsidisation is not required, the meeting concluded, as financial institutions have the capacity and appetite to provide development capital, risk mitigation products and end user finance.

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