With an annual demand of 150,000 units against a supply of about 30,000 units, Kenya is experiencing an acute housing crisis.
The housing crisis is worsening every year fuelled by the rapid population growth and the swift migration from rural to urban settings due to economic reasons. This has seen housing prices soaring to unprecedented heights forcing many people to move into slums.
Although many builders have over the years attempted to embrace new technologies to beat the rising cost of building materials, the city planning department has refused to approve their designs and building units citing failure to adhere to the (rigid) building code.
Developers who defy the local authority standards and proceed to put up “low-cost” housing units are severely punished and their structures demolished.
Local authorities the world over have building codes to ensure houses meet specific requirements. These codes are however revised as time goes by in order to embrace technological advancements while meeting the specific needs of the society. This is unfortunately not the case in our country!
It is hard to believe that a house built of timber walling cannot be approved by the City Council of Nairobi as it does not meet the standards that warrant approval, yet about half of the city’s population lives in slums built of tins and mud.
Although the government is trying to address the issue of housing shortage, we are yet to see any results mainly because the current building code does not recognize new building technologies that can deliver housing in a shorter span of time.
Aware of this fact the ministry of housing established a task-force that would draw up a new building code that would facilitate the adoption and development of new building technologies to pave way for affordable housing.
Unfortunately, two years down the line no new building code has been brought into effect – despite the vast amount of financial and technical resources employed in the process.
As a matter of urgency the ministry should allow builders to try new building technologies, use recyclable building materials and to experiment on other innovative ideas to meet the housing needs of Kenyans.