Firms bet on tech, incentives to achieve affordable housing

Friday, January 21st, 2022 10:30 | By
President Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTO/COURTESY

As the clock ticks closer to the August 2022 General Elections when President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government is expected to have delivered on its affordable housing promise, the state and real estate players are racing against time to complete housing projects to bridge the huge gap that Kenya has been grappling with for years. 

 According to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census, 85.5 per cent of 53.77 million Kenyans do not have homes.

Statistics by the World Bank shows that six out of 10 households in most African countries stay in slums and without basic or adequate facilities, such as sanitation, water supply, and electricity.

New building methods

Also data by World Habitat indicates that Kenya is currently struggling with an annual housing demand of 250,000 units.

With an estimated supply of 50,000 units per year, the country has a housing deficit of over two million units, or 80 per cent deficit.

With the view of supporting the government’s bid, developers have adopted emerging technologies, among other innovative solutions to more Kenyans to have access to affordable homes.

“Using new building methods, construction companies can build an eight-storey building in eight months, down from 24 months they would take when using the brick and mortąr method,” says Heri Homes CEO Kimotho Kimani.

The state in the past few years has been facilitating the adoption of new low-cost building technologies and economies of scale, including reinforced concrete technology, prefabricated panels, interlocking bricks, expanded polystyrene panels (EPS), precast concrete panels, and ferrocement building technology, among others to fast-track delivery of homes to its citizens.

For instance, last year, South Korean firm Kumkang Kind introduced the aluminium formwork solution in Kenya, a construction system for forming cast in place concrete structure of a building, that is said to be fast, simple, adaptable and cost effective.

The company is currently delivering its solutions to Maisha Housing, Unity Homes, Ovid Construction and Urban Housing Renewal Development LLP.

Another technology that has been adopted in the recent past is prefabricated building technology, which involves manufacturing modular houses in a factory, usually in standard sections that can be easily transported and assembled on-site.

Bola Properties Managing Director Malei Nthiwa during a recent stakeholders forum also called for the upscaling of green solutions in Kenya to lessen the burden of millions of Kenyans seeking affordable houses.

He urged sector stakeholders to adopt market aggregation to spur the growth of the industry. “In any project, you need financiers, you need technical experts, and you need legal help and suppliers.

Unless the whole ecosystem of people in the construction sector come together and deliberate on how to move this sector forward, affordable housing will be, but a dream,” he said.

Optiven, a leading brand in the African real estate sector has also joined in the drive to change the housing challenge narrative through innovative property ownership undertakings.

 One such undertaking is customer loyalty programmes that reward customers for purchasing property, thus encouraging them to become property owners.

 George Wachiuri, Optiven CEO says providing customers with rewards and incentives in purchasing and developing property has the ability to enhance construction of houses across the country.

How incentives  help

 Wachiuri states that a study that the company conducted during its customer loyalty programme between October and December last year saw a rise in purchase of their plots and development of the same. 

The Sh20 million Furahia na Optiven programme, he says, saw more customers flock to their offices seeking to buy and develop plots.

“To help the country achieve its affordable housing goal, I feel this is an area that has not been exploited and as a company, we will continue to encourage our customers to buy land even as they win prices and assets, such as vehicles,” he said recently during handover of prizes in Kiambu County.

 “For every payment of Sh10,000 towards a plot of land, the customers got one entry point into the Furahia na Optiven promotion draw, which was regulated by the Betting and Licensing Control Board (BCLB).

Prizes won in this programme included daily airtime vouchers, weekly local vacations, monthly plots of land, a Toyota Passo and a Toyota Vitz,” added Wachiuri. 

Grand prize

Wachiuri says it is important for players in the real estate sector to participate in helping bridge this challenge by offering solutions that allow easy payment modes. Optiven has been leading on this front.

 The prize for the grand draw, which was conducted by BCLB officials, was a Mercedes C-180.

The lucky winner of this prize was Brian Wanjala, a young man who confessed that he had dreams of owning a car in the next two years.

 “I was awe-struck to get a call from Optiven that I had won a Mercedes-Benz C-180 after purchasing a plot of land at Happy Gardens, Kitengela.

That was my first investment and I didn’t expect to be an owner of a car any time soon, and so I was pleasantly surprised and extremely glad,” said Wanjala.

Meanwhile, in a bid to reduce the housing deficit in the country, the government is expected to soon break the ground for construction of 5,000 housing units in Kibera’s Soweto B Slum.

 Charles Hinga, the Housing PS who spoke during the signing of the Mavoko housing contract said the project is part of the planned upgrade of the slum.

 The state will also be putting up 3,000 housing units in Nairobi city’s Shauri Moyo and Athi River areas despite existing legal hurdles.

“We need to approach the affordable housing endeavour as a journey that requires patience. So far, we have several projects that are coming up quite well here in Nairobi and other parts of the country,” stated Hinga.

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