A decent house, with amenities such as running water and sanitation, in a safe environment is a human right.
It’s a social-economic investment that accords an individual, family and community dignity, security, privacy and pride of home ownership.
It enhances good living, health, education of children and overall wellbeing of households.
And what do we have? A weak legal framework. The present Housing Act, Cap 117 deals only with the National Housing Corporation and does not deal with an all-inclusive law that supports housing for all. The National Housing Policy, as stipulated in Sessional Paper No 3 of 2004, pledges decent and affordable housing for all Kenyans. It was due for revision 10 years later in 2014 but the revised version has not yet been gazetted or published. Vision 2030 also promises decent housing for all Kenyans and so does the Constitution of Kenya under Article 43(1) stating that every Kenyan has a right to accessible and adequate housing and reasonable standards of sanitation.
Kenya hosts UN Habitat, the global body that deals with human settlements. In various forums, this body has set goals and targets for the provision of adequate housing for all, but with little to show on the ground besides half-hearted, poorly funded urban slum upgrading programmes. They hardly have outreach to the rural poor.
The housing situation in the country is depressing. In its 2017 brief on housing, the Institute of Economic Affairs states that 35.1 per cent of houses in Kenya are single-room dwellings, 59 per cent of urban dwellers reside in single-room houses, while in rural areas 27.2 per cent do so. Only 12.8 per cent of Kenya houses have at least four rooms.