By: Brandon Alexander Harrell:
Government Failure in Providing Housing Solutions for Urban Poor in Kenya: According to UN-HABITAT, Nairobi has some of the most densely populated, unsanitary and insecure slums in the world. About 60% of the city’s population lives in the more than 100 slums and squatter settlements around the city. The excessive and expansive slums which pervade Nairobi’s periphery serve as proof of a history of turbulent governance and the consequential housing market failure. The market failure can be attributed to poor governance, high cost of housing finance, a complex land tenure system, stringent planning and building standards, and rapid urbanization compounded with poor economic growth. The lack of affordable housing options for low-income and no-income residents of Nairobi is particularly important due to the fact the new Kenyan Constitution 2010 guarantees every Kenyan the right to decent affordable housing. An estimated 60% of Nairobi’s 3 million person population are low-income, urban poor living in slums which constitute less that 5% of the Nairobi’s total land. As these slums continue to grow due to a migrating rural populations and internal natural population growth, it is in the interests of Kenya, and the entire Horn of Africa, to see to it that the urban poor are housed.
Our analysis of the various housing interventions spearheaded by the (Government of Kenya) seeks to highlight their strengths and weaknesses and to suggest ways in which they might be improved to ensure maximum benefits, especially for the poorest of the poor. Such projects include: Kenya Slum Upgrading Project currently under way; Umoja II and Dandora Site and Service schemes and Pumwani- Majengo resettlement; Kibeta High Rise.
What we find is that the GOK has failed to provide access to affordable housing solutions and instead, all interventions by the government to improve access to housing have ended up benefiting the middle and upper-middle income classes. Historically, these programs have failed due to mismanagement and corruption, and lack of political will to provide jobs and resources for the ever growing low-income population.Through an analysis of changes in housing policies, cost-effectiveness of housing projects, level of public/ private partnership (PPP), we hope to shed light on the current trends in slum upgrading and on future possibilities. Alternatives to explore include project management of PPP in the production of low income housing, NGO intervention and community led housing production/upgrading.
• The urban condition that plagues so many countries is also inherent in their rural communities.
• A city is not a city alone; it resides within and is inextricably connected with its region. This is true especially in terms of work, migration, and the social service needs that arise from migration into central cities where more opportunities would seem to exist – it is an ecology, a heavily interdependent system.
• Strengthening rural communities is crucial, not only to provide a vibrant, self-sufficient quality of life, but also to prevent migration into cities in the search for work. With that comes exacerbated pressure in urban settlements not only for employment, but the need for shelter, for sustenance, for human security, and for other human services.
• In my opinion it is indispensable to improve quality of life in rural communities and slow/stop the migration process stemming from hopelessness and lack of opportunity. Why? To lessen regional brain drain, mitigate concentration of urban ills, and support resilient and self-sufficient smaller communities capable of retaining and sustaining their inhabitants. A complex set of profound challenges requiring a visionary, committed and complex network of solutions.
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