Co-operatives tipped on tackling housing shortfall

National and county governments are working on Public-Private Partnership models to construct 67,000 housing units in Nairobi and 48,000 units in other counties

Co-operative societies have been identified as solid partners to bridge the housing  deficit as the government grapples with one of its Big 4 agenda—housing.

This is one of several strategies being mooted in a bid to address the annual deficit of 0.2 million homes. Given an estimated annual demand of 250,000 houses against a supply of 50,000 units, there is growing deficit of 200,000 homes a year.

Although the Kenyan Constitution recognises right of housing to every citizen, the opposite is evident. National Co-operative Housing Union Limited (Nachu) chairman Francis Kamande says cooperatives could make a huge impact if they indulge in mass scale provision of affordable homes.

“Apart from aggregating demand from members for uptake of affordable houses, co-operatives could also partner with the government and other investors in providing answers to citizens,” he said.

400 member cooperatives

Nachu is a non-profit making, technical services institution dedicated to provision of decent affordable shelter through housing cooperatives. The organisation was formed almost three decades ago and now has over 400 individual member co-operatives.

Speaking at this year’s annual Nachu delegates meeting in Nairobi last weekend, Kamande said cooperatives could also buy houses through the mortgage and Tenant Purchase Schemes (TPSs) model. “A good delivery strategy which can work would also be collecting data of housing infrastructure needs,” he said.

For instance, the national and county governments are planning on a PPP (Public-Private Partnership) model to construct 67,000 housing units in Nairobi and Metropolitan and 48,000 in other counties.

Kamande believes the financing aspect from saccos (credit and savings cooperative societies) can be beneficial to the public because of affordable credit. “We can work together with the government to help arrest the situation which is continuously a problem despite housing being a human right. All that is required is structured solutions to eradicate the problem. We exist to help ensure the government agenda is eased but facilitation through areas of infrastructure and interest rates need prioritisation to us,” added Kamande.

Principal Secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development Charles Hinga said the government is keen to put up 500,000 houses in the next five years through agencies such as the National Housing Development Fund (NHDF) and Kenya Mortgage Refinancing Company (KMRC) for purposes of cushioning citizens.  He appealed for assistance from the private sector including the co-operative sector.

“The government is an enabler but it needs working partnership in such monumental projects. We are ready to listen to the challenges and seek solutions together so that our housing deficits can go down,”  he said.

“What we are looking at is both parties benefit especially the citizens and obviously the developers. What Nachu and others are proposing and what they have already achieved is worthy of praise,” he added. 

Hinga said that because of Kenya’s current debt cap, it would be difficult to ascertain government guarantees on large-scale projects. “However, given agencies like NHDF, we have created a funding mechanism but on a lower scale so that end users do not feel huge pinch,” he said.

Developers have raised concerns in the past over poor feeder roads, lack of water and other utilities, hence the escalation of costs and delays in completion of projects. Currently, the government is engaging different partners to work on off-site infrastructure to help meet rising demand for houses.

The PS has called for patience as those measures are being addressed and which, in the long term, will help create many jobs. “As part of job creation, it explains why the Tertiary and Vocational Education and Training Institutions (Tvets) are being highly funded because projects like housing will need artisans,” said Hinga.

Director of Co-operatives in Nairobi County Lydia Aremo praised co-operative organisations for having helped most citizens save and build houses. “Our co-operatives are making commendable progress and especially in the urban setting where land and buildings are out of reach for the majority of residents,” she said.

Aremo said in all the 17 Nairobi sub-counties for example, there are housing projects sprouting because of the influence of co-operatives. “Nachu is spearheading a good programme for the future. The model of incremental housing is on point and it seems sustainable for our people even in slums,” she said.

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