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Senators raise concerns over delays to approve affordable housing projects by counties

Senate standing committee on Roads, Transportation, and Housing has raised concerns over delays by some county governments in approving the affordable housing projects which could derail their implementation.

The Senators noted that the delays if not addressed on time risk putting the government-led affordable housing agenda in limbo and denying thousands of Kenyans a chance to own decent houses.

Speaking in Naivasha during an engagement with Housing Principal Secretary Charles Hinga, the committee chair Karungo wa Thangwa called on the county governors to facilitate seamless approval of the projects upon request to ensure the projects’ success.

Karungo named the Kiambu County government for being notorious for delaying approval of the projects which he said risks denying the creation of thousands of job opportunities to youths and Juakali artisans and the economic revival of the county.

Thangwa lauded the Nakuru County government for hastening its approval process within hours which has seen millions of shillings pumped into the industry by both the government and private investors.

The Kiambu Senator called on county bosses to put in place systems that will address the delay concerns and ensure the government’s key pillar of providing affordable houses to millions of Kenyans across the country as well as the creation of jobs under the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda is achieved.

The senator said the committee will rally for support of the three percent housing fund contribution which will enable the government to achieve its agenda adding that adequate safeguards have been put in place to ensure that the funds are not misappropriated.

On her part, nominated Senator Peris Tobiko said the committee will amend the current Housing Allocation Act to ensure and guarantee the fair allocation of affordable houses to the most deserving Kenyans especially those at the bottom of the social pyramid referred to as the hustler.

Ms Tobiko said the government has put measures in place to ensure fair allocation of houses across the country through the “One house, one identification number, one pin” model which will safeguard against multiple allocations of the houses.

Addressing the senators Mr Hinga said the funds will enable the government to address the existing housing gaps for over 6.5 million urban poor Kenyans who are currently exposed to inadequate amenities, sanitation issues, and exploitation.

The Principal Secretary said the fund is not a form of tax but savings that will enable the pulling of resources to facilitate the construction of affordable houses and ownership among Kenyans with flexible payment terms capped at 30 years.

Hinga said the houses are priced at one million shillings for one-bedroom houses and up to 3.5million for a three-bedroom equipped with supporting infrastructure and sanitation including link roads, sanitation, and parking lots among others.

Under the proposed model, salaried employees will contribute three percent of their basic monthly pay with the employer contributing a similar amount to the housing fund kitty.

The PS said the government has put in place safeguards to ensure the funds are channeled toward the implementation of an affordable housing plan noting that the funds will be under the supervision of a qualified fund manager.

He however added that Kenyans who will have contributed to the kitty can recoup their money with interest after seven years.

“By the year 2030, 65 percent of Kenyans will live in urban areas and there’s a great need to promote the uptake of affordable and decent houses under a collective approach”, said Hinga.

Hinga said currently 9935 units of affordable houses are ongoing across the country while another 31,000 units are set for launch in Makongeni and Thika in the coming weeks.

Additionally, the PS said the government has allocated Sh 4 billion towards the construction of 200 units in every constituency which will see 58,000 affordable units put up for locals while creating hundreds of employment opportunities for the youth.

Hinga at the same time said the government has rolled out social housing programme to benefit low-income earners where the lowest unit, a studio apartment, will be priced at Sh 550,000 with a flexible rent-to-own option for owners.

Consequently, the PS said that the government-backed Boma Yangu Initiative has seen 347,000 interested homeowners reregistered in the portal with a total savings of more than Sh1.8 billion that will go towards affordable housing projects.

To facilitate cheaper houses, the PS said the industry players have adopted modern technology including the use of three-dimensional printing of houses that ensures rapid construction as well as the exemption of Value Added Tax (VAT) on building materials.

Hinga lauded the ongoing government-led digitization of land records noting that the process will facilitate the seamless issuance of title deeds and retrieval of lands records, a move that will speed up homeownership among deserving Kenyans.

By Erastus Gichohi

 

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