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Lobby: -Affordable housing law game changer for rural households

Lobby: -Affordable housing law game changer for rural households

Nakuru,

Thursday March 21, 2024

KNA by Jane Ngugi and Dennis Rasto

The signing into law of the Affordable Housing Bill is a game changer for millions of Kenyans living in rural areas who, for years, have been inhabiting derelict structures but now have been handed an opportunity to own decent homes, a lobby group has indicated.

The Kenya Internally Displaced Persons Organization (KIDPO) observed that previously the focus on provision of affordable housing had always been on what happens in urban centers where population densities are high and economic activities are a lot more, while rural areas were largely ignored in the scheme.

KIDPO patron Mr Peter Tena pointed out that inclusion of Kenyans in the informal sector and others not salaried who will pay a 1.5 percent turnover tax from their monthly gross earnings to the fund under the new law widens the bracket of beneficiaries including previously internally displaced persons.

Initially, the Bill only applied to those in formal sectors. However, after a court order, the government included everyone for fairness and a balanced contribution. According to Mr Tena the order by the court was a brilliant idea as initially those in consultancy and other professions were not included, while their earnings are quite high.

Those holding formal jobs will also be deducted 1.5 percent of their gross monthly pay, an amount that will be matched by their employer.

This, according to the KIDPO, will offer rural households Kenyans a chance to own decent homes, boost the economy and offer employment opportunities.

While noting that proper attention has now been given to providing affordable housing for the poor segments of the population, who form the bulk of Kenyan society at about 53 per cent, Mr Tena stated that the new statute will create extensive opportunities for investment in construction, and the manufacture and supply of building materials and components in rural areas.

He said previous studies had established that only two percent of formally constructed houses targeted the lower-income families, with about 65 percent of Kenya’s urban families having to cope with informal settlements.

President William Ruto on Tuesday, March 19 signed into law the Affordable Housing Bill, at a ceremony held at State House Nairobi.

Addressing the media in Nakuru Mr Tena observed that the affordable housing project has the potential to generate thousands of direct job opportunities for artisans in the informal sector.

The use of locally available resources, labour and artisans in the housing programme, he added, could lower costs and employ thousands of Kenyans.

The patron indicated that affordable housing is about ensuring everybody can access quality housing without compromising their ability to lead a decent life. He added that housing is a key social determinant of people’s health and overall quality of productivity

Mr Tena observed that Article 47 of the Constitution provides that everyone including rural households is entitled to accessible and adequate housing.

“International human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights also enshrine housing as a human right.

A decent house is probably the most significant investment many families will make.

Besides providing shelter, a house can be used as collateral to finance the family’s economic activities and cater for emergencies like medical bills,” stated the patron.

He stated that availability of affordable housing in rural areas will enhance the capacity of families to meet important needs and save for the future, thus improving the standard of living.

The legislation received approval from both the Senate and the National Assembly including amendments that involve the participation of county governments.

Under the new provisions, proposed by the Senate, governors will establish county liaison committees tasked with overseeing the implementation of the affordable housing programme.

President Ruto has severally indicated that the affordable housing project will not only provide employment opportunities for young people in the country but also ensure there is sufficient land available for agriculture and food production.

“Housing is going to give us jobs for our young people, give us decent living conditions for our people, is going to assist us in making sure that we have land for food production and is also going to make sure that we grow our manufacturing sector,” Dr Ruto said at a function in Bomet County.

Mr Tena petitioned the government to consider a Senate report that questioned the 10 per cent mandatory deposit which many Kenyans complained was high. He said the 10 per cent deposit was high and that a way should be found around it soon to reduce the amount.

The new law also defines the role of County Governments in affordable housing and provides for the establishment of County Affordable Housing Committees to advise governors on affordable housing programs within their counties.

The Government has announced that currently, over 120,000 young men and women are working on the sites, and it anticipates having 300,000 youths working on the sites once they put in place the balance of the 48,000 units.

KIDPO Governing Council member Ms Ruth Wanjiru hailed the government for introducing another category which is rural housing. Kenyans who wish to set up homes in rural areas, she added, can access loans through the housing fund to build these houses.

“There is also rural housing. So, if you want to go and build your home in rural areas, you can be able to get a loan to go and build it. This is a step in the right direction,” she said.

Ms Wanjiru advised Kenyans to register themselves at the Boma Yangu platform under the e-Citizen as that will allow the government to properly plan when setting up these homes.

“When people have access to quality affordable housing options, they are far less likely to face hazards associated with an informal settlement lifestyle. Additionally, the cost incurred in the treatment of recurring health issues due to inadequate housing becomes disposable income and can be used for further self-economic empowerment,” She noted.

The KIDPO Governing Council Member indicated that affordable housing investment spurs economic stimulus and job creation and added that investing in affordable housing will create a multiplier effect, where direct and indirect benefits to the country include job creation, improved health and safety and increased household resilience.

Principal Secretary, State Department for Housing and Urban Development Mr Charles Hinga has indicated that those earning Sh20,000 and below will automatically be entitled to a social house, which Hinga says has been divided into three categories depending on the number of rooms in that house.

For one to move into a one-room house, they will be required to pay Sh3200 per month for up to 30 years after which the house will be theirs.

Those who would want to move into a two-roomed house or a three-roomed house will be required to pay Sh4800 or Sh6400 respectively.

These homes are only available to people earning a gross of Sh20,000 and below and are all single rooms.

Taxpayers earning between Sh20,000 and Sh150,000 will be allowed to own or rent homes depending on the number of bedrooms in that house.

A one-bedroom, Hinga says, will be available for Sh5,200 while a two-bedroom and three-bedroom will go for Sh10,400 and Sh15,600 respectively.

According to the PS, those under this class can get a mortgage of 6 per cent which is fixed and is paid for a maximum of 30 years after which, they will own the house. The third category of earners are those who earn over Sh150,000 per month.

Their homes will be mid to high-end market units which will be spacious and master ensuite.

For this category, the homes available will only be two and three bedrooms which will go for Sh31,300 and Sh41,800 respectively.

Courtesy; KNA

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