What Nigeria could learn from Kenya to make housing truly affordable

…’govt spend, developer incentives buoy opportunities’

In practically every aspect of housing in Nigeria, the country needs to learn something from its peers, meaning that housing in this part of the world is an orphan with little attention from the government.

Unlike Nigeria where there is no data, programme or policies on housing, Kenya has a significant government investment in its 2021-22 national budget, combined with attractive incentives for private developers for the affordable housing sector and this is well set to provide opportunities to investors.

Findings by Vivian Ombwayo, Director of Research and Valuation at Broll Kenya, shows that the outlook for affordable housing sector in Kenya remains “very promising”. This is largely due to the fact that as part of the Affordable Housing Initiative contemplated under the Big 4 Agenda, the Kenyan government has set aside KES 13.9 billion for the Affordable Housing Programme.

Unlike Nigeria too, Kenya and its people recognize the importance of housing. “The trying times of Covid-19 pandemic has opened our eyes to the importance of quality housing as it is linked to health and well-being. The affordable housing sector not only offers scope for developers to add to their revenue base but also to play a significant role in managing the spread of Covid-19,” Ombwayo notes.

Her findings show further that affordable housing offers developers an opportunity to diversify their portfolios, especially those concentrating mainly on the commercial-user space. This means that the developers are able to diversify into the residential sector.

Read also: Nigeria’s housing problem and the Singaporean model

Ombwayo and Jess Cleland, COO Outside of SA, Valuations & Intel at Broll, presented a research report on the housing sector in Kenya at the just concluded eighth annual East Africa Property Investment (EAPI) Summit.

The report highlights that the abundant housing opportunities in Kenya also allow complementary users to be included in affordable housing projects, such as retail, office, institutional and also medical. This means that, at the end of the day, despite having to manage their revenue and cost carefully, private developers are able to achieve a healthy return from comprehensive affordable housing projects.

Another factor to be considered is the social impact of affordable housing, stresses Ombwayo. “We have so many developers, such as those in the private equity space, heavily involved with the social benefits that such projects afford local communities. There are no better projects than affordable housing in this regard,” she says.

“It starts off by elevating the living standards of end-users, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic given that health is associated with housing. It also increases the country’s employment rate, reduces the crime rate from the community receiving social revenue from such projects and facilitates overall community integration. The associated training and development programmes are also highly beneficial to local communities,” she adds.

While there is no formal definition of what constitutes affordable housing in the Kenyan property market, according to the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company Plc (KMRC), the ceiling for a typical three-bedroom unit is four million Kenyan shillings (KES).

“However, it is very much dependent on the developers themselves, who often base the definition of affordable housing on not cost alone, but also on the proximity to socio-economic amenities,” notes Ombwayo.

The demand base of low- to middle-income earners, which accounts for more than half of the economically active urban population, lends a real impetus to the demand for affordable housing. For example, an online affordable housing platform developed by the government, known as Boma Yangu, has clocked up over 320,000 subscribers to date.

“While private developers are finding it very tight to maintain the ceiling of KES 4 million, we are not really seeing any projects offering anything above the standard typology of three-bedroom apartments,” adds Ombwayo. The cost of land within the major urban centres is increasingly pushing developers to the outskirts, where the main attraction is the ready availability of relatively cheaper land.

“The lion’s share is being taken up by government projects at the moment. This is mainly driven by the availability of land. Land cost is a very important aspect when it comes to affordable housing, coupled with innovative ways of minimising overall projects costs, such as alternative building technologies.

The private sector is yet to catch up, but there has been a lot of traction in recent years, especially as the private sector attempts the tricky balance of cost versus the final price of a unit,” explains Ombwayo.

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