Chapter 4 of the Kenyan constitution, the Bill of Rights in article 43, states that every person has the right to accessible and adequate housing and to reasonable standards of sanitation. However, the recent disasters of storey-buildings collapsing in different parts of the country costing human lives and property has raised some very serious questions on the state of the housing sector in Kenya.
Sharing one important characteristic with all other rights, this human right is meant for every human being. However, the housing sector has not acknowledged the concept of equity in a society. It is merely an intangible wish that most Kenyans hope it shall come to pass.
According to a report ‘Why Kenyans love living in cities,’ the issue of rural-urban migration in Kenya is greatly due to poverty and unemployment. Kenyans do not love the city life. They are made to migrate because they believe that it is in the city that resources in terms of opportunities and social amenities are available ‘in plenty’. This is indeed debatable.
With the new constitution, came devolution, meant to take these resources closer to the mwananchi. Statement such as “Work hard in school and go to the city and get a job” are supposed to be a thing of the past. What we are not sure is if it is really the case.
The housing sector is one of the most lucrative sectors in Kenya. This is due to the huge demand for housing in Nairobi. Greed, unfortunately has replaced reason leading to contractors constructing buildings that are extremely unfit for human occupation. The condition of these houses is very worrying and most vulnerable Kenyans are left to wonder: “Who allowed such negligence to thrive in broad daylight? Who are the responsible stakeholders? Is this another great opportunity to blame the government or has the time come for collective responsibility on huge matters such as these?”
If I am to define the state of the housing sector in Kenya, I would say it is consequential. Kenya has a huge demand for housing which the government cannot solve on its own. Synergies between the private sector, the government and the public at large can make the solution possible. Majority of the city dwellers are unable to afford the rates of houses in the leafy suburbs. As stated in the Big Four Agenda, constructing houses for rent at affordable rates is the solution most Kenyans are eager to see. However, the means to this end calls for a lot of commitment from all stakeholders. It is wrong to do a shoddy job during construction and still ignore duty of care, allowing innocent citizens to rent, not knowing they are sitting on ticking time-bombs.
To improve the housing sector in Kenya, there is need to review laws and policies. The unfortunate thing about laws and policies is that, even though they are meant to provide law and order, they do not cover all aspects of human action. Malicious people are smart enough to identify the flaws, and take full advantage of this for their own selfish needs.
The National Construction Authority (NCA), The Building Inspectorate Unit, The Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development need to work in synergy. This will create better coordination among the agencies and realize the housing challenge in the Kenyan Urban areas.
Tenants too have a role to play. They need to ensure that buildings they live have occupation certificates. To be part of the change, we need to speak out. Demand what is rightfully your; your safety. Stay alive.
Finally, let us be our brothers’ keepers. The spirit of nationhood needs to be core of our foundation as a nation. We need to embrace sustainability in order to realize the change that we all need as a country.