When President Uhuru Kenyatta assumed office for his second and final term, he pledged to focus on four development pillars: food security, manufacturing, affordable healthcare, and affordable housing. The goal is to achieve 100% food and nutrition security, 100% universal health coverage, ensure a 15% GDP contribution from manufacturing and deliver 500,000 affordable homes across 47 counties in the country. These goals collectively make what has come to be known as The Big 4 Agenda. It is a brilliant aspirational map which requires equally brilliant implementation if it is to succeed. And Kenya is certainly on its way.
Nairobi City recently waived building approval fees for affordable housing projects. The Nairobi governor announced the waiver: "My cabinet has approved waiving of building fees for all housing projects in Nairobi as our commitment to support affordable housing programme. This applies to projects being undertaken by private investors, county and national government." The waiver is expected to attract private investors and encourage public-private partnerships for the achievement of the affordable housing agenda. The Nairobi County Government has also passed a guiding framework for housing projects in the city and it stipulates how housing units are to be shared, relocation of tenants and how long projects should take. Construction Review notes that other county governments are also implementing the affordable housing agenda. All Kenyan hands are on deck.
In line with the affordable housing agenda, the national government has established the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company owned by the State, commercial banks and financial co-operatives. President Kenyatta said of the company, "It will help to extend the tenure of housing loans from the current average of seven years to at least 20 years. It will also assist in driving interest rates on mortgages to single digits." The country has also signed an agreement with the United Nations Office for Project Services to finance the building of 100,000 affordable housing units while the World Bank has pledged its support.
The Kenyan National Assembly also approved the establishment of the Kenya National Housing Development Fund managed by the National Housing Corporation. The fund will help individuals earning up to 100,000 Kenyan Shillings (around USD900) with the purchase of their first home through affordable housing plans sponsored by the government. Workers who will have made contributions will be given first priority to buy low-cost housing units built by developers. For the civil servants, the National Treasury allocated $1.5 billion (Ksh150 billion) for public-private partnership projects for affordable housing for 2018 to 2020. It is a big financial commitment.
Kenya has also said it will partner with private landowners to implement a blueprint for affordable housing. Charles Mwaura, Principal Secretary of the State Department for Housing and Urban Development, said, “We are interested in getting private landowners into the affordable housing programme provided they will comply with the stipulated guidelines." Already, the government has lowered taxes for developers constructing at least 100 units a year.
The affordable housing agenda is Kenya's big response to the over 2 million housing deficit reported by the World Bank in 2017. Kenya is not in this position for lack of policy or laws as a quick scan through the country's 2010 constitution and the Vision 2030 strategy will show a clear appreciation of what is at stake. However, the country seems to be shifting its energies to delivery rather than lyric and this is a promising sign. The national government, county governments, and the private sector are all uniting to house the citizenry.
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