Kenya’s Ministry for Housing is aiming to build affordable housing in informal settlements to transform cities, towns and buildings into cohesive, sustainable and caring communities with closer access to work and social amenities including sports and recreation facilities.
The Minister for Housing, Mr Soita Shitanda, said that his department is reviewing systems, standards and policies that will facilitate the delivery of serviced land and housing for low income households. This will include the formulation and implementation of revised standards for planning and land development such as minimum plot sizes, floor areas, ratios and building heights.
“We will examine the current financing available to end users in lower income groups to access housing, and to developers for increased supply of affordable housing both for ownership and rental purposes,” he spelled out.
“Measures and interventions in these areas will go a long way in increasing affordability and availability of the low-cost formal sector housing unit on the market,” said the minister, who was speaking during the launch of Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Project (KISIP).
KISIP will also develop strategies to improve access to financing of affordable housing development and mortgages.
Mr Shitanda said living in these settlements often poses significant health risks. “Sanitation, food storage facilities and drinking water quality, are often poor, with the result that inhabitants are exposed to a wide range of health hazards and dwelling places may act as breeding grounds for insect vectors.”
According to the Minister, cooking and heating facilities in slums are often basic, resulting in excessive exposure to indoor pollution. “Access to health and other services is limited, overcrowding also contributes to stress, violence and increased problems of drugs and other social problems.”
To upgrade living standards within informal settlements, the Kenyan government sought assistance from the World Bank, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and Agence Francaise Developpement and other donors to address these needs.
Through KISIP, upgrades to informal settlements will take place where the land is suitable. However, those that are located in low lying and environmentally fragile areas such as river banks or riparian land, will be relocated to land identified for settlement in consultation with affected communities.
“The upgrading of informal settlements by proving of infrastructure and enhancing tenure security is high on the agenda,” Mr Shoita said, adding that the demand for housing is very high and the resources are limited. “We will strive to expand provision of basic services so as to ensure that water, sanitation and electricity reach all our communities.”
“Also high in our agenda is refuse removal”, the Minister continued, “there is need for communities to begin to take responsibility for cleaning their areas. Neighborhoods must instill a value system of pride. The slum upgrading process can be turned into opportunities that benefit many unemployed people.”
Minister Shitanda sees the future of informal housing as a development opportunity for Kenya, “positive programmes could be an opportunity for job creation for the youth, women and many unemployed people as these processes needs plumbers, artisans, project managers, community liaison officers and contractors among others.”
He commended the preparatory work done with the support of the World Bank and its partners in KISIP. The new policy is in line with Kenya’s new constitution, which calls for accessible and adequate housing, incorporating reasonable standards in sanitation, as well as clean and safe water in adequate quantities.
However, he said the evolving policy environment on decentralization may call for changes in the projects’ implementation arrangements to ensure that it is in line with the government’s new institutional structure.
The project puts emphasis on the prevention of slum developments. Its design supports the planning and development that incorporates the delivery of infrastructure, services, land and affordable housing for future urban growth. The Ministry of Housing is currently undertaking a systematic study of the main impediments to the delivery of affordable housing and serviced land
“Urbanization continues to be a major challenge in developing countries. More than 70 percent of the world population will be living in cities by 2050,” Mr Shitanda said. “Our policies must be informed by this reality. We must plan in advance and in accordance to the size of the problem. Master plans of the past have no room in this changing environment. This therefore calls for clear plans that are simple and are understood by all,” he added.
“In 2009, 32 percent of the Kenyan population was residing in urban areas and the total urban population was estimated to be 13 million people,” the Minister said, pointing out that Kenya’s five largest cities namely Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Eldoret account for approximately 34 percent of the urban population. Managment is critical, according to the Minister “the urban transition in Kenya will play an important role in determining the country’s growth prospects and social stability.”
Nevertheless, “rapid urbanization and inadequate capacity to cope with the housing needs of the people in urban areas, have contributed to the development of the informal settlement,” he said.