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Habitat urges State, stakeholders to consider affordable housing

Charles Okwemba @charlito56

Habitat for Humanity has called on the government to ensure creation of at least 50,000 decent and affordable houses for low-income households in rural Kenya in the next five years. This would account for 10 per cent of the 500,000 houses pledged by President Uhuru Kenyatta during his recent inauguration speech.

“Most of the rural residents own their houses but most homes are constructed using wood or mud,” said Cyrus Watuku, Director, Habitat for Humanity Europe, Middle East and Africa.

About 35 per cent of this population live in single-room houses, with three to four people sharing a room, he added during a recent function hosted by Habitat for stakeholders. Habitat says 1,500 substandard houses are built in the rural Kenya each week, mostly made of wood or mud. This compounds the housing problem for close to 20 million Kenyans living below the poverty line.

Habitat has identified three challenges to home ownership in Kenya: Shortage of quality housing units, affordability and access to own land. Torre Nelson, area vice president, Habitat for Humanity Europe, Middle East and Africa said the problem is deepened by ambiguous property rights and laws that constrain conventional ways of financing shelter.

“Mortgage markets in the region remain small limiting access to an elite segment of the population,” he said. Habitat is advocating for a variety of affordable financial products especially for low- income families.

“We believe that housing microfinance; small affordable loans to build or renovate housing are more helpful in solving housing problems,” he said. Habitat has also been mobilising partnerships and bringing people together to find housing solutions.

“We are ready to marshal all stakeholders towards alleviating housing shortages for Kenya’s vulnerable and low-income groups,” Nelson said. Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in USA. It has since grown to more than 70 countries, 31 Africa.

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