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House Committee urged to harmonize Housing Act with Affordable Housing Bill

Residents of Homa Bay County have asked Members of the Joint Committee sitting on the Affordable Housing Bill, 2023 to institute a raft of amendments on the Bill to address the current challenges facing the housing sector.

While making their contributions when legislators led by the Chairperson of the Department Committee on Finance and National Planning, Kuria Kimani (Molo) conducted the exercise in Homa Bay Town, the residents noted that there is a need to harmonize the Bill with the provisions of the Housing Act, to ensure that the two do not overlap.

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“Hon. Chairman, there is a need to harmonize this Bill with the current Housing Act so that the two laws do not end up contradicting each other. Where there is a need to amend the Housing Act, let us do so, rather than create a provision in the Affordable Housing Bill then end up with conflicting laws”, advocate Joshua Nyamori told the Members.

Legal professionals attended the session. They called for the Bill to clearly outline the roles of the Affordable Housing Board. The roles should be explained how they differ from those of the National Housing Corporation. They also underscored the need to stagger the terms of the Affordable Housing Board Members to ensure that their terms do not expire at the same time.

They further called for the inclusion of a professionals working in the building industry such as civil engineers in the proposed board, given that the board’s role revolves around construction.

At the same time, representatives of people with disabilities told the legislators that the Affordable Housing Board should have a representative from among people with disabilities and that the infrastructure around the housing projects should accessible to them. The proposed Bill does not expressly make provision for a member living with a disability.

While noting that the proposed deposit is way above their means, the participants also called for its review downwards, while others proposed that the program be tweaked to provide loans for the development of rural homes. Currently, the affordable housing program is concentrated in towns.

To calm fears that cartels could hijack the program and it would not help the intended beneficiaries, Hon. Kuria assured them. He said the Committee would propose a ‘one unit per one Kenya Revenue Authority Personal Identification Number’ (KRA PIN), policy.

“The fears that this program might not benefit the intended beneficiaries have been raised in the public hearings that we have held so far. I want to assure you that the Committee will come up with a mechanism to ensure that the program is not hijacked by cartels. We shall recommend only one housing unit per one KRA PIN”, Hon. Kimani told them.

They called for prudent use of the housing fund. They told the Committee to increase the provisions for punishing fund misuse. They said to make it an economic crime.

“We are worried that the proposed fines are too lenient for those who misappropriate the funds. Why not make the punishment commensurate with the Economic Crimes Act to create a deterrence for would-be corrupt officers?”, a resident suggested.

To address the shortfall of students’ housing, the Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Tom Mboya University, Prof. Elyjoy Micheni proposed that the Bill incorporate a provision for partnership between the State Department of Housing for universities and other tertiary institutions to benefit from the program.

“It is my proposal that this Bill considers incorporating hostels for students to address the current shortfall. Though students may be able to afford them, they can benefit from decent housing through partnerships with the government. A majority of our students are living in the slums since we do not have enough hostels and they cannot afford to rent out houses within the town.”, she told the Committee.

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