Housing cooperatives hold key to affordable homes dream

The housing situation in Kenya is deplorable. Only 16 per cent of Kenyan households in urban areas own the houses they live in, while the majority at 84 per cent rent. About 61 per cent of the urban dwellers live in slums. Such are the statistics that have necessitated the intervention of the national government, which plans to deliver 500,000 decent and affordable housing by 2022.

Conventionally, Kenyans have owned housing through mortgage financing, building their houses incrementally as funds allow and through housing unions and co-operatives. Kenya’s cooperative movement is ranked seventh worldwide, and first in Africa. It contributes 90 per cent of the housing stock delivery in Kenya.

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With over 23,000 registered housing co-operatives and more than Sh700 billion in savings, and an asset base in excess of Sh800 billion by the end of 2017, housing cooperatives are in a good position to help the government achieve its Agenda Four on housing. Housing cooperatives have taken up the mantle in providing affordable housing for low income groups. Those who earn between Sh15,000 and Sh49,000 per month constitute 71.82 per cent of the formally employed.

While Agenda Four on affordable housing envisages that cooperatives should contribute significantly towards housing stock delivery by 2022, it also calls for an integrated approach within the cooperative sector. I am happy to recognise the effort of the office of the commissioner in coordinating a common strategy that will see cooperatives demonstrate their viable model in development.

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Housing cooperatives have big chunks of land and savings by their members. They can support the agenda through unlocking their expansive land through partnerships with the government and other investors, providing financing, buying the houses under the programme through mortgage model and Tenant Purchase Schemes, aggregating demands from their members for uptake of the affordable housing and lobbying at the local level for pro-affordable housing policies and initiatives.

Francis Kamande

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