President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday launched the Habitat Heights, one of the projects of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and their partners that will see the delivery of 8,888 affordable housing units to Kenyans when complete.
Speaking at the launch of the mega project in Mavoko, Machakos County, the President said the project which will inject an estimated 5 billion dollars into the economy is an affirmation that Kenya is a worthwhile, secure and facilitative destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
“This is a happy moment for me. I say so because for the past one and a half years, we have been working diligently to formulate an implementation plan to usher Kenya into an era of affordable and decent housing and, indeed, I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” President Kenyatta said.
The mega housing project is the first of many similar initiatives lined up by UNOPS and their partners to be implemented in the country leading to the delivery of 100,000 affordable housing units.
President Kenyatta pointed out that development of the 100,000 housing units follows a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) he signed with UNOPS last year in New York.
“To bring this MOU to effect, I have just witnessed the signing of a development agreement which will see us produce another 100,000 units beyond the first 8,888 units that are here at Habitat Heights,” the President said.
The President also unveiled the country’s roadmap for the development of a further 200,000 units through joint efforts between the government and its strategic partners.
He urged those implementing the housing projects to ensure that locals benefit in terms of jobs and business opportunities.
“The national endeavour under the affordable housing programme will not only provide Kenyans with decent housing but it will also provide them with opportunities to integrate into the Manufacturing Pillar of the Big Four Agenda.
“It is a requirement in our planning that, as far as possible, the inputs of affordable housing projects be sourced locally and especially from Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs),” the President emphasized.
The Head of State highlighted a series of measures that his administration has implemented over the last 18 months to address some of the systemic issues that have made housing unavailable and unaffordable in the urban and peri-urban areas.
The measures include the decision to make national and county government land available for grand housing and bulk infrastructure projects.
“We realized that the affordability of homes was affected by high costs of land and horizontal infrastructure, which can add up to 60% to the cost of development,” the President said.
To further enhance affordability, the government has been working with various stakeholders to identify suitable tax incentives that would have a positive impact on the cost of construction.
“Through the Finance Act 2019, we have provided VAT exemptions for all inputs in affordable housing development schemes. We have also continued to provide a 15% corporate tax rate for developers with projects producing at least 100 affordable housing units; which is half the normal corporation tax rate,” the President said.
President Kenyatta also announced that first-time homeowners will be exempted from paying stamp duty under the affordable housing arrangement.
“We have also waived NEMA and National Construction Authority fees on constructions, and we are seeing various counties the following suit by waiving their county government development fees in order to further reduce the cost to ordinary citizens,” the President pointed.
On the progress of several ongoing housing projects, the Head of State said the government will soon be allocating the 1,370 units of the first flagship affordable housing project at Park Road in Nairobi County.
He disclosed that the next flagship projects in Shauri Moyo and Starehe in Nairobi will break ground in early 2020 and bring onboard another 8,000 units when fully implemented.
“These projects are part of the larger Eastlands Urban Renewal master plan, which will bring online an additional 168,000 units. By replacing the decaying and dilapidated colonial-era units, we will be able to generate modern 177,000 units from the existing 43,000 units,” he said.
On the social housing side, the President said the resettlement of Kibera Zone B residents to allow for the implementation of the redevelopment is well underway.
The project will give decent homes to approximately 4,400 households who have already been enumerated.
President Kenyatta added that the government is currently in the process of selecting a suitable investor who will bring to fruition the plans for decent homes for Kibera B residents.
During the occasion, the President witnessed the issuance of strategic partners certificates and the execution of a development framework agreement between the State Department of Housing and Urban Development and Sustainable Housing Solutions organization as well as the handing over of the East Africa Portland Cement title deed to the CS for Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development.
Other speakers included Transport CS James Macharia, Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua and UNOPS Executive Director Vitaly Vanshelboim.