18 July 2010

Kenya: Window of Opportunity to Tackle Housing Crisis


Nairobi — Housing will play a huge role in revitalising economic growth in Kenya, with shelter being among key indicators of development.

Unfortunately, demand far surpasses supply, especially in urban areas that have for long suffered from poor planning, resulting in an increase in informal settlements with poor housing and little infrastructure services.

The Government alone cannot meet the country's housing needs, which calls for a change in mind-set to enable the private sector to chip in.World over, governments provide incentives to guide their housing markets to cater for the growing population.

The most common include provision of infrastructure, legislation, regulations, fiscal and monetary measures, and administrative practices.

However, the government is increasingly constrained in raising the required financial and technical resources to cope with the rising demand for water supply, sewerage, drainage, electricity supply, and solid waste management.

Rapid economic growth, growing urban population, increasing rural-urban migration, and all-round social and economic development have compounded the pressure on the existing infrastructure, and increased the demand-supply gap.

This is partly why the pace at which land with the infrastructure (serviced land) has been made available lags behind demand by property developers, including individual households.

The cost of land remains high due to the insufficient supply of serviced land and is made complex by inadequate legislative framework.

To speed up growth of the housing sector, the government has reviewed the building code to allow for use of modern and appropriate technology in housing development to lower the cost of construction and to shorten the delivery period.

The housing industry looks forward to the implementation of the Land Reforms Management Systems to make it friendlier to formal and informal formal private sector investors.

Budgetary allocation for the provision of infrastructure to urban and peri-urban land through public-private partnerships will enable players in the housing sector deliver affordable housing on a larger scale.

The government ought to offer guarantees and concessions to private local and foreign investors to develop housing infrastructure.

Licensing of credit reference bureaus (CRB) is a step in the right direction.

The lack of credit information sharing between banks and borrowers has for long inhibited innovation and financial intermediation.

This has led to the high cost of credit that has constrained growth of businesses and limited access to credit by many Kenyans.

Mr Ireri is MD, Housing Finance

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