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Housing: The Kenya poor – community based initiative

Majority of the urban poor live in substandard squatter settlements, in sharks and on the periphery of urban centers, and lack basic infrastructure and services. Upgrading the living standard of the slum dwellers are major contemporary challenges preoccupying the minds of urban managers. In the attempt to finding solution to the flight of the urban poor, the community based initiative of the Muungano Kambi-Moto Community in Nairobi Kenya is in a class of its own. The amazing on-going low income housing development by the typical urban poor in Nairobi is an innovation worthy of emulation by city management authorities like the FCDA, in quest of solution to the menace of urban slums.
Code named Urban Initiative Project (UIP), the low income housing development by the Kambi-Moto is aimed at exploring innovative methodologies for enabling professional planners and designers to be more responsive and effective in addressing challenges in contemporary and future African urban settlements. It is a product of collaboration between the City Council of Nairobi, the University of Nairobi, Pajoma Trust Fund, and other NGOs, Urban Planners and Architects working in informal settlements. The products are blocks of 3-floor housing units; each block contains 4 units, with each of the unit occupying only 10 by 10 square feet area, such that each household can vertically, have 2 bedrooms a living room with toilet and kitchen. The concept and design is the outcome of a meeting by the Kambi-Moto community that come together under the guidance of professional Town Planners at the university of Nairobi, to produce what the community can afford and maintain, and also be adequate for their immediate needs. It employs simple technology that does not require reinforcement for 2 storey buildings, yet the structure is strong enough to stand the test of time. This is built by the community themselves, by direct labour and individual contributions. The total cost of a housing unit as at year 2013, is Ksh300,000, approximately, or even less than N600,000.
In comparison to what is obtained in Abuja, that employs zoning regulations as the instrument for the regulation of housing affordability, high density residential area are to accommodate the low income, while the high income are to be in low density areas. What is required to develop a high density residential plot of between 900m2 – 1000m2 according to the regulation manual is a block of flats of 4 floors to accommodate a maximum of 8 families. With this and other requirements as standards, it is very clear that the low income cannot afford either to own or rent houses in the high density areas. Their only option is to live in substandard structures at the city fringes, or rent or build in the city’s closest neighbouring settlements outside the FCT, at a very high risk of the frequent road carnages. The simple fact is that, the cost of development was never considered in the development standard for the high density residential houses meant to be for the low income group. It becomes very necessary to review the standard in the development of the high density residential areas, such that the final product can be made available to the actual target group. This requires articulated research in conjunction with competent institutions.
As the city progressively passed through various developmental stages, so also should the necessary adjustments be made to respond to new challenges. FCDA is urged to fashion out enabling policy that shall make as many persons as possible to be accommodated within the city. There is the need to adopt minimum, but adequate standards of housing to help in reducing the total cost of development as a solution to housing for the low income. The Authority is also urged to facilitate a community based initiative for housing development by the creation of Community Based Housing Development section within its organ. The Control Department is to create a new set of standards to make possible the development of low income houses through the community based initiative, as exemplified by the Kambi-Moto community project. The Authority should also ease the process of land acquisition for the community based housing initiative. This is for the attention of the FCDA and its relevant organs; STDA, URP, Development Control and Land Administration Departments.

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