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BUILD OR BULLDOZE? KENYA’S ‘PARADOXICAL’ HOUSING POLICY

Paradoxes can be formal or informal..

In logical reasoning a paradox is a statement which leads to a contraction or a situation which if true defies logic or reason. “This statement is false” if true, is false, and if false then is true….its a paradox of logical truth.

In real life, and particularly politics, seemingly, many paradoxes occur, these are not the paradoxes of philosophical logic but more of the kind that can’t be easily explained, that often cause confusion, but at their heart have an explanation however cloaked.

The word ‘paradox’ was on the tips of our tongues whilst reviewing the weekly news and the “Kenyan Housing Policy” (or more correctly the lack of it) came up for discussion. (there is a new draft Housing Bill in the making…we’ll see…)

Kenya has a serious need for more housing, particularly in the low income bracket, at present there are no serious, or accurate figures that we can find but it has been said that the country has a requirement to build 150,000 extra houses per year but is only achieving around 30,000 builds per annum, and this situation has being going on for 5yrs or more.

By our calculations that is at least 600,000 (we’ve seen figures much higher than this) houses short and rising at the rate of 120,000 per year.The report doesnt say whether these are figures arrived at via population demographics, financial abilities or need for shelter. The last comprehensive report was carried out in 1983!

Given this lack of (particularly affordable) housing, this article in the the Business Daily looks like its just the sort of clever solution that could plug the gap, and put 1m shilling homes into the hands of the many. The developers and sponsors of the scheme “Home Afrika” already has plans for 5000 units in the Athi River area. Compared to the average price of housing in Nairobi standing at 21.38m (HassConsult– refers to middle and upper income) and the KNBS figures up to September showing a slowing down in the real estate sector, ‘due to the weak shilling’, the “Home Afrika” project looks like a real winner.

So we turn the pages and read the next two articles and the ‘paradox’ comes into play.

The first article in The Nation indicates that the Thika Highway is attracting new money, and destined to be come the hub of a “new Karen” and so its

Thika Highway: hub for the new Karen?

likely that the surrounding areas currently occupied by low cost housing will be bulldozed in favour of new higher rent yielding buildings.  Great for the developers but bad news for wananchi yet again, and totally out of line with the governments’ fading vision.

The second article in the Business Daily was less obvious but nevertheless a major obstacle to an ever youthful low income, house ownership market. The huge cost of borrowing money in Kenya not only affects the ‘poor’ banking sector, it also affects society in general, particularly the housing and business markets. Whilst holding a tough line to keep the financial services afloat, the Central Bank is also sinking growth in housing and enterprise.

So we have a dire need for housing in Kenya but not only land developers, the government itself bulldozes and demolishes. It doesnt make sense, its a paradox unless its viewed in relation to the key players and their own interests. As we have said before, corruption in the Land Registry and the uncertainty of land ownership, makes real estate a perilous business. The developers need to make money but are forced to move up market whilst the interest rates are so high, and the financial institutions hold the line to protect their coffers.

Until the government implements a secure land policy, which works, implements a housing policy which is both realistic in cost and magnitude, and reflects the needs of the many rather than just the few, and until affordable money comes back into society, we fear that even the 1m shilling housing may be too much for the average person.

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