The constitution of Kenya 2010 created two levels of government in Kenya’s governance; the county governments and The National government. The former county and municipal council’s assets and liabilities have been assumed by the county government structures. The devolved system has seen seconding and redeployment of staff from the national government and former local authorities.
For a long time, Kenya has experienced housing deficit every year. Only 50,000 units are produced every year against the annual demand of 200,000 housing units. Housing deficits are likely to hit the newly created counties harder as professionals and the general workforce move from the hitherto established urban centers back to the counties. Housing development is a constitutional function of the counties. The counties through their integrated plans must include the housing component as a collaborative deliverable for both the county governments and the private sector.
The counties are expected to largely generate their own revenue. Only 15% of the national revenue is shared among the 47 units. The need to raise revenue has awakened the counties to lay various strategies to tap more revenue streams. One of the opportunities is redevelopment of old county housing estates stock through densification to collect maximum possible revenue. The devolved units must capitalize on the relatively low densities and availability of land to promote county housing estates production to close the huge housing gap.
Some of the old county housing estates have undergone “succession tenancy”. Single families have transferred tenancy to their kin over the years. Some of the county housing estates have been sold to such individuals as “longtime” tenants or through employee purchases in employee schemes like the old Kenya Railway housing estates at throw-away disposal pricing. Some have been embroiled in constant conflicts with tenants detesting any minimal rent rise by the councils and in some cases blatantly refusing to pay any rent. This trend has hurt council revenue. These housing in stock in their current status are by and large informal, under-densified economically speaking and most important cannot fetch the much needed revenue for the counties.
Previously,the government of Kenya had earmarked such lowrise council estates as potential relocations for the dense slums. Have you ever thought of the potential impact of re-planning and redeveloping the Nairobi Eastland stretch of Kaloleni, Makongeni, shauri moyo etc? It’ll bring great potential not only to planned living and decongestion of dense establishment but also greatly economically benefit the County and the investors.
Densification programs will be capital intensive and socially challenging. Redevelopment of such vast areas with large population of current tenants will need active participation and dialogue between the county governments and the tenants. The venture may not be driven by the county alone but a concerted effort in collaboration with housing investors
The stake of both the county government and the tenants must be made known upfront for the success of the intervention. The tenants for example could be prepared for a tenant purchase of specially designed units or a portion of the land granted to the tenants to develop leaving the county with a large portion to redevelop for the market.