As one of the most advanced and developed economies in Africa, the Republic of Kenya has been experiencing some regrettable setbacks in terms of income inequality, population overgrowth, urban development, and housing supply. In 2017, housing officials in Kenya are looking for ways to ameliorate a deep shortage of affordable dwellings that has the potential of threatening social stability. One promising solution is being offered by a firm known as KOTO Housing, which provides prefabricated dwellings made with polystyrene as the main construction material. The KOTO Housing prefab homes include flats, maisonettes, apartments, and more. The floor plans and materials make up an attractive solution in terms of durability, eco-friendliness, ease of construction, and affordability. Even with all these advantages, the KOTO prefab homes fall slightly short of being a miracle solution, and it is important to understand why.
The Economic Reality in Kenya
Just like in other nations where capitalism has taken a firm hold of the national economy, growth in Kenya has produced the unpleasant side effect of skyrocketing property values. In the bustling capital of Nairobi, the urban sprawl is underscored by housing slums where students, workers, and large families are forced to live in inadequate conditions. These are working families whose daily incomes of just a few dollars per day are hardly enough to afford the overpriced rent, home values and mortgage payments associated with proper housing.
A Shortage of Homes, Not Land
The Kenyan economy has become a conundrum that sees high revenues from tourism, agriculture and even financial services; however, the sizable middle class seems unable to get ahead. This is a country where only three million workers receive a proper salary despite a national population exceeding 46 million. These three million salaried employees mostly live in Nairobi, and they are hounded by home sellers, builders, landlords, and mortgage lenders; nonetheless, this is only a small segment of the workforce. Nearly 90 percent of working Kenyans, most of whom live in Nairobi, earn about $289 per month. Economists do not believe that this is bound to change anytime soon, which is why even seemingly masterful solutions such as KOTO Housing are not enough to solve the problem. A two-bedroom prefab home costs less than $7,000, which is still out of reach even for middle-class families.
In order for an initiative such as KOTO Housing to work, governmental agencies and economic co-ops such as the Broad Borders Housing Cooperative Society will have to provide assistance in several ways. First of all, capitalistic land grabs must be stopped; this must be followed by direct subsidies to families in the way of grants and affordable mortgages. Unless certain micro and macroeconomic changes take place in Kenya, the housing shortages seen in and around Nairobi may continue despite the best sensible solutions such as the polystyrene prefab homes offered by KOTO Housing.