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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs