Embracing Affordable Housing at County Levels, a Focus On Nakuru County

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Nakuru County requires 10,000 affordable housing units in order to meet the current housing demand. However, only 2,000 units are available, creating a shortfall of 8,000 units according to a report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. The Affordable Housing Agenda rolled out by the Government in December 2017, envisions that each county will be required to develop at least 2,000 units per financial year beginning 2018/2019. However, this will not meet the current demand in a county such as Nakuru that had a population of 1,602,637 in 2009 and this number is expected to rise to 2,400,367 in 2030 and 3,013,869 in 2050 based on the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census. This population requires a long-term solution to housing that will last for the current and upcoming generations.

On 5th July 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Deputy, William Ruto had a sitting with lawmakers and labour leaders. In unison, they agreed on the need to actively engage and embrace the housing project for the sake of Kenyans who deserve quality and affordable houses. The President called upon every individual to play their respective role and make the dreams of Kenyans a reality. They also discussed ways of lowering the cost of housing with the main highlights on the rising cost of land, provision of infrastructure, legislation, and financing of this project. The Deputy urged the leaders to become champions in their counties by spearheading the Housing agenda. It is estimated that 22 counties have already signed up for the programme and Nakuru County is among them.

Housing is majorly a devolved function and counties may entirely not be able to build housing units on their own. However, it is in their main mandate to promote a conducive environment to facilitate growth in this sector that will encourage more investors to draw interests in the counties that are in the forefront of implementing Affordable Housing in conjunction with private real estate developers.

Nakuru, for example, is already coming up with strategies of creating an environment that will enable stakeholders put up affordable houses for take up by residents. This is notable through the launch of “Boresha Barabara program” in January 2018 spearheaded, Lee Kinyanjui, the county’s governor. This aims at upgrading the state of roads in the county. This is a unique support to infrastructure that will encourage more investors who are now shifting their focus to less populated areas away from Nakuru CBD to areas that can offer affordable land to middle-income earners.

The county already has plans underway to have the digital approval of building plans, discussions that are ongoing at the Nakuru County Assembly. This will significantly reduce the time taken to seek approval of plans to construct houses by residents and investors. These are commendable steps by Nakuru County that has embraced its role in providing a conducive environment for investors.

It is important to note that no approval for construction can be granted to an investor without proof of land ownership which is a title deed. Therefore, the national government through the Parliament should help fast track the passing of the pending Land Regulations Bill in Parliament related to conveyancing. This will legalize online verification of landowners and online issuance of title deeds thereby creating a favourable environment for real estate development.

It is the role of the national government to construct major highways. However, the role of constructing feeder roads falls under the jurisdiction of the county governments. For example, sections of The Nakuru-Eldoret Highway are currently being expanded by KeNHA in Sobea, Salgaa and Mau Summit. In this case, it is the role of the county to ensure feeder roads that touch the highway are well maintained to ease transport of farm produce by farmers in these localities and commuters who work in Nakuru town. This will further encourage residents to move away from the town and seek serene environments to settle their families away from the populated CBD.

In conclusion, it is important to create a conducive business environment for reputable private real estate companies to offer the support required towards the achievement of the Affordable Housing Agenda under the Big Four. Building a few housing units will only help solve a current crisis but long-term strategies will provide long-term solutions to each county and the upcoming generations will have a place to call home.

Written by Reuben Kimani, CEO, Username Investment Limited