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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More