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Username calls for inclusive zoning

by Brian Yatich

Username Investment CEO Reuben Kimani has urged the Government to consider Inclusionary Zoning as part of their strategy to offer affordable homes to all Kenyans.

The CEO spoke during the 26th Kenyans Homes Expo, where Username scooped the 1st Prize as the best Land Investment Company, stated that it was time the Kenyan Government considered borrowing housing ideas from states which have been successful in ending their housing crises.

“It is possible to borrow from Maryland’s Inclusionary Zoning model, which has helped the state reduce homelessness to less than 3,000 people. To make affordable housing, which is part of the Big Four Agenda a reality, policymakers will have to enact a Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit Program, which would require developers of mass housing units to incorporate a percentage of low-cost housing in their projects.”

Reuben was referring to a 1974 housing law that was passed by the County of Montgomery, in Maryland, where builders asking for permits, site plan approvals, and sub-divisional approvals to create more than 50 housing units, would have to ensure 15 percent of the units were low-cost.

“To make this plan attractive to private developers, the government should consider incentives such as density bonuses, lower land rates, tax relief, and provision of alternative low-cost building materials in addition to the buy-back proposal made by Housing Principal Secretary, Charles Mwaura. If the Housing Ministry assures developers that they will ease their construction cost, and also buy back the units that do not sell after construction, more people in the private sector will be willing to partner with the government in making affordable housing a reality.”

Reuben was addressing the Kenyan housing crisis. The current housing shortage in the country stands at 2 million units. The proposed housing agenda is set to create 500,000 low-income housing units by 2022, which still leaves a deficit of one and a half million housing units.

“Other Countries have found ways of getting private developers involved in solving the housing crisis for low-income earners. This has benefitted them in eliminating informal settlements (slums), ending homelessness and creating communities which are income integrated. Of course, there will be the challenge of high-income earners wanting to take up these units, but lawmakers can have laws enacted restricting the income gap which one needs to occupy in order to be eligible for the low-income units. We need to define low income by looking at the median household salary earned in each Kenyan town and having households which fall below this threshold getting these units.”

Addressing the competition which has been going on between the NHC and the private sector in the provision of housing, Reuben stated that it was time the two sectors came together and created a workable partnership which will result in low-income Kenyans being able to afford homes. He stated that if the government would offer infrastructure such as access roads, electricity, clean drinking water and fast approval of construction permits, developing mass housing would become achievable.

“Most of the houses being constructed by private developers only benefit middle and high-income earners. To make Affordable Living a reality for all Kenyans, the Government has to partner with private developers.”

The Kenyan Homes Expo provides a platform for Kenyans to access Real Estate investment opportunities. The expo makes it possible for property buyers to interact with realtors, construction contractors and developers, thus demystifying the real estate industry. This year’s first expo, whose theme was Affordable Living, was held between the 12th and 15th of April.

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