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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.