Who will build Uhuru’s 500,000 homes?
When President Uhuru Kenyatta leaves office in 2022, some 500,000 Kenyans will have become new homeowners, courtesy of the Jubilee administration.
Under President Kenyatta’s legacy projects, fondly referred to us Big Four agenda, the government has committed to build 500,000 affordable houses in the next five years to alleviate housing shortage in the country.
Mid-last month, State House Spokesperson Manoah Esipisu said that groundbreaking for about 30,000 houses will happen in the next three months.
He said the project will start with ground-breaking for 2,000 units on Park Road in Nairobi, 5,000 units in Shauri Moyo, 20,000 units in Makongeni and 3,000 units in Starehe. He said the project team had a six-month deadline to ensure that the breaking of grounds happens, and the construction begins in earnest.
But does the country have enough professionals to build the required housing units within five years? Does the country have enough architects, quantity surveyors, urban planners, contractors and engineers?
All eyes will be focusing on bodies that train and accredit professionals in the built industry. These include Board of Registration of Architects and Quantity Surveyors (Boraqs), Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK), Engineers Board of Kenya and the National Construction Authority.
Kenya has 1,255 registered architects scattered across 703 architectural firms and 509 quantity surveyors in 125 firms. The country leads other nations in the region as far as training professionals in the industry is concerned.
Housing Secretary Patrick Bucha says the government is ready to get the input of these professionals, adding that consultants in the private sector have been the custodians of standards that the government is looking for to actualise the housing agenda.
He says the state has always used private consultants for huge government-backed projects and will only be playing a bigger role than has been the case in the past.
“Private professionals are designing for many government projects. Their role will be much bigger in the provision of quality houses considering that we shall be building in almost every county. The role of the government will be to facilitate the process by providing serviced land while the private sector drives the actual construction process,” he says.
Bucha says the consultants will benefit from enhanced experience as the projects move to all the counties with their unique needs.
Boraqs chairperson Nathan Kureba says the number of experts is adequate to drive the housing agenda under the Big Four, considering that only registered experts will be hired.
“We are service providers through our registered individuals. We manage policy and training of the professionals. If we require more, our higher learning institutions are continuously producing new ones who can work under the registered ones,” says Mr Kureba.
Kureba says professionals need to come up with a prototype design that can then be customised to suit various sites and regions.
Boraqs will hold a seminar in Nairobi on Wednesday next week to sensitise building professionals on the emerging opportunities from the Big Four. It will be presided over by Transport, Infrastructure and Housing Cabinet Secretary James Macharia.
Beyond the Big Four and Vision 2030
Emma Miloyo, AAK’s president, says there should be no cause for worry concerning consultancy services offered by the body since both the numbers and technical abilities of professionals in Kenya are sufficient. She says we should be more worried about the capacity of contractors due to the volumes involved.
“This will be a large-scale housing project where consultancy services is the most basic component. With economies of scale, we can use one design for a single project. Our concern is the ability of architects not only to create affordable designs but improve on quality,” she says.
Currently, the government is working on financing models that include setting up the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company to help with bonds for affordable housing.