Govt urged to ensure affordable housing solutions for rural people

Written By: Claire Wanja
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Habitat Kenya
According to Habitat, 1,500 sub-standard houses are built in rural Kenya each week, mostly made of wood or mud

Habitat for Humanity has called on the government to ensure creation of at least 50,000 decent and affordable housing units for low income households in rural Kenya in the next five years.

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This would account for 10 percent of the 500,000 houses pledged by President Uhuru Kenyatta during his inauguration for a second term.

According to Habitat, 1,500 sub-standard houses are built in rural Kenya each week, mostly made of wood or mud. This compounds the housing problem for the close to 20 million Kenyans living below the poverty line.

Cyrus Watuku, Director of Programme Operations, Habitat for Humanity Europe, Middle East and Africa says so far much of the attention on housing is almost exclusively focused on urban dwellings, while rural housing needs have been almost totally ignored.

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“While most of the rural residents own their homes, a majority of them are constructed using wood or mud. 35 percent of this demographic live in single-room houses with three to four people sharing a room,” Mr. Watuku said during a cocktail hosted by Habitat for stakeholders in the housing industry.

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Habitat has identified three key challenges to home ownership in Kenya as; shortage of quality housing units, affordability and access to own land.

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In Sub-Saharan Africa, the shortage of financing for housing is acute. Banks generally ignore housing finance as the perceived risks and costs outweigh benefits.

Area Vice President, Habitat for Humanity Europe, Middle East and Africa, Mr Torre Nelson, says the problem is deepened by ambiguous property rights and laws that constrain conventional ways of financing shelter. For this reason mortgage markets in the region remain small, limiting access to an elite segment of the population.

“Habitat is advocating for a variety of affordable financial products, especially for low-income families. We believe that housing microfinance, small affordable loans to build or renovate housing are more helpful in solving housing problems,”he noted.

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Habitat for Humanity notes that collaborative efforts between the government, the private sector and communities can address the existing challenges and improve access to affordable housing.

“The government can provide support with policies and house production, the private sector is good at innovation and skills improvements while the people can form self-help groups, volunteer and be involved in house maintenance.

“This is where Habitat for Humanity’s expertise comes in,” Mr Nelson enthused. “We have been mobilizing partnerships and bringing people together to find housing solutions. We are ready to marshal all stakeholders towards alleviating housing shortages for Kenya’s vulnerable and low income groups.”

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