News / Africa

    Rural Kenyans Move for Opportunity, Cause Housing Shortage in Nairobi

    FILE - A man walks by the slum of Mathare in Nairobi, May 28, 2014. FILE - A man walks by the slum of Mathare in Nairobi, May 28, 2014.
    x
    FILE - A man walks by the slum of Mathare in Nairobi, May 28, 2014.
    FILE - A man walks by the slum of Mathare in Nairobi, May 28, 2014.

    In Kenya, towns and cities are growing fast. It’s estimated at least 100,000 people move per year from their rural homes to the capital Nairobi in search of opportunities. The urban growth has led to a high housing demand with the Ministry of Housing estimating at least 200,000 new housing units are needed each year to meet the shortage.

    Nairobi is getting overcrowded, short of homes, space and, for the newcomers, it’s short of hope.

    Population boom, need for housing

    The city is growing rapidly. The 2009 population census shows more than three million people lived in the capital, and two thirds of that number reside in ghettos where there is no running water, electricity and proper drainage systems.
     
    The throngs of smiling, neatly dressed men and women on the streets hides that fact that the city’s majority is not happy with where they reside.  
     
    Irene Njeri, 22, lives in a single room with her son. She said her main concern is their health. 

    "Like right now it’s raining, there is poor drainage and because of overcrowding, in one plot you have one bathroom and one latrine so all of you are using that," she explained. "So you find you are more vulnerable to cholera, typhoid, malaria."
     
    Poor living conditions, inspection corruption

    William Wachira said he thinks the inadequate housing can be blamed on corrupt officials from the department of planning and housing.
     
    He noted, for example, in the house where he stays, the bathroom is not to standard and he has to share with other tenants. When the health inspectors come, they don’t address the problem, but instead order the tenants to move out if they don’t pay a bribe.     
     
    Tom Odongo, the city head in charge of urban planning, land and housing, admits there is a problem when inspecting the quality of the houses being built. But he said that is about to change, as his department will start doing the inspections - unlike before where they hired people to do it for them.
     
    "What we have created in planning compliance and enforcement directorate is actually what response to this [poor housing inspection]. It means that from the previous time we were using the private sector consultants to be our agents sometimes for carrying out inspections because of inadequate capacity internally," he said. "What now it means is that we will be able to have adequate capacity to carry out those inspections ourselves."
     
    Demand high for quality housing

    Quality is only part of the problem.  Quantity is increasingly an issue with hundreds of thousands of new housing units needed annually.
     
    The demand for housing is so high that it contributes to shoddy building and disproportionately high rents with some private home developers taking advantage of a desperate population who will take anything to have a roof over their heads.
     
    Odongo said the city government is now taking this seriously and has a plan. He says in the next 15 years they will build enough publicly-owned houses for the need and improve standards by imposing stiffer penalties on builders who ignore codes or health standards.
     
    "There has been a challenge on enforcement because of weak legislation which only fine people 100,000 shillings [$1,150] which is very easy for violators to pay. But what we are trying to do now is to change the course by involving people in the process of designing a new vision for development of the city we are coming up with something that citizens own," Odongo said. "And with ownership then it will be easy for us to navigate the process of urban development because people do something that they have themselves designed."
     
    In October, Kenya is expected to host an African housing conference where government officials, private property owners, and financiers will deliberate the challenges, opportunities and ways to provide a good housing to its citizens.
     
    Rael Ombour in Nairobi contributed to this report
    .

    You May Like

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora