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High cost of land a threat to ‘Big Four’ housing plan

Steve Umidha @steveumidha

Land prices are rising at their fastest rate in more than five years and continue to climb year-on-year, threatening the government’s ambitious plan to put up half-a-million housing units by 2022.

Solicitor-General Kennedy Ogeto warned yesterday that high cost of buying land, coupled with the absence of a well-defined land use policy, posed the biggest risk to President Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda which has affordable housing as a key pillar.

Unclear guidelines and uncoordinated legal and policy frameworks, according to the AG, is to blame for the widespread tradition of land-speculation by landowners. Speculation is the taking of above-average financial risk in anticipation of high returns in a short period of time.

Although there has been an unexpected slow growth in land prices in the third quarter of the year, judging by the latest findings from Hass Consult’s property index.

A key player in the real estate sector, the firm believes the slight drop in land prices is being guided by the cautionary approach by investors awaiting for more granular details of the State’s planned 500,000 affordable units under the Big Four agenda.

“High cost of land needs a rethink, policies and guidelines should be in place to protect those buying land and caution those buying for purposes of speculation that they should instead use the land for creative purposes,” he said.

Ogeto was speaking during this year’s International Construction Research Conference and Exhibition (IcoRCE) in Nairobi. The forum is being organised by the National Construction Authority.

The three-day event that has brought together individual researchers and institutions to discuss their research outcomes and innovations with some of the outcomes expected to grow the sector.

Public Works Principal Secretary Paul Maringa said there is need to lower the cost of construction, adding that about 75 per cent of the cost, for instance, is spent on consultations, besides financing.

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