Shelter is a basic human requirement. Adequate and affordable housing is a fundamental right drafted in the Kenyan Constitution. During Uhuru Kenyatta’s swearing-in, The President of the Republic described his agenda for the big four pillars of development; food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and inexpensive healthcare. “Under my Big Four plan, for the same amount of money you pay today as rent, you will be able to own your home, and it will be a decent house, built to modern standards,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said during his swearing-in for a second term on November 28, 2017.
The government named affordable housing as one of its key priorities in a four-point agenda. According to statistics from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, the housing shortage in the country stands at 1.85 million houses, with an annual shortage of more than 200,000 units.
Affordable housing remains a problem, not only for Kenya but also for other countries on the continent. This problem has been compounded by the rapid increase in urban population and the escalating prices of building materials. In a report by Business Wire tagged World Cement Market Report 2017 – Analysis and Forecast to 2025 – Research and Markets, cement in Africa is typically three times the price in the world. For this reason, the provision is constrained and the government relies on an outside private sector to deliver cheap housing.
Low-cost housing is a concept which is generalized and based on three factors which are structural design, the method of budgeting & cost-cutting and the materials used. So, all these three factors must be optimized for low-cost construction.
One major move that has seen the realisation of low-cost housing is the use of Alternative Building Technologies (ABT’s) building materials.
It does not have to be always stone, concrete, brick and mortar. ABT’s are a game changer in the market. They are becoming a more acceptable method of bridging the housing deficit in the continent. Shelter Afrique, a major housing investment firm in Africa, observes that despite the fact that the technology was introduced in the last decade in Africa, people are still slow to accept and adopt the idea. “Many people still prefer to use the conventional means to ABT’s because they associate ABT’s with the poor and the end product is of inferior quality,” Shelter Afrique 2014 report.
The truth of the matter is that we must embrace this new technology.
A rising trend in line with ABT’s is the use of EPS Panels (Expanded Polystyrene). EPS is one approach that is gaining demand over the orthodox approach of stone and concrete. This approach from Italy promises to reduce the cost of putting up a building by 30% while reducing the time to build a house by half. Another advantage of this technique is that it can be recycled therefore there is no wastage of materials after construction.
One firm named, International Green Structures (IGS), has partnered with the local community in farms, to recycle the biomass residue from wheat or rice into agricultural fibre. The CEO Richard China in an exclusive interview noted that “Our biggest challenge is cultural adaptation and showing the people in these countries that this is a technology that will give them a safe, secure house but it’s not your traditional construction process that they’re used to.”
This is ultimately the crunch point in building affordable housing, not only in the country but also in the continent. As more of these technologies get rooted into the Kenyan market, it’s time to have a second thought on your strategy as a construction company, real estate firm and most especially as an individual longing to own a decent home.