Better Housing for Yawezekana Housing Co-op Society Members

Members of Jamii Bora Trust are the very poor in Kenya but also the most determined. Most of the urban members in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Thika, Eldoret, Machakos and many other towns in the country are living in unhealthy and unworthy slums.

The dream of all Yawezekana Sacco members is to get out of those slums into better housing. As they improve their lives step by step with the help of Jamii Bora’s Micro-Finance, Health, Business Academy, Tumaini and Levuka programmes the dream of better housing is growing stronger and stronger.

Yawezekana Sacco members believe that it is possible to get out of poverty and build a better future for their children. They also believe that they shall get out of the slums and live in decent housing one day. To fulfil this dream, Yawezekana Sacco has embarked on a major housing programme and as a first step is building a new town called Kaputei in Kisaju in the Kajiado district neighbouring Nairobi.

Housing crisis major poverty factor in Kenya

Many studies addressing the causes and solutions to poverty have come to the conclusion that housing for the poor is of critical importance. When discussing the family problems and the most important factors to bring the family out of poverty, the poor almost always place housing on the top of their list of priorities. Recent World Bank and UNDP reports have also recognised that poverty alleviation has to focus on asset formation and not only on income generation in order to be successful. There are many reasons why housing is of vital importance our members.

Health depends on decent housing
The miserable housing condition is one of the major root causes to diseases and premature death among the poor. The poorest households are female headed households with a single mother or grandmother and her many children or grandchildren. If the mother dies or is unable to work because of disease, the children go hungry. In a country without any welfare system, health is the only security to continued income earning capacity. Our members have therefore put better housing highest on their list of what they want to achieve.

Housing for income earning
Most of the urban poor are petty traders and vendors at street corner "shops". They need to keep any remaining stock in their own house over night. If the roof is leaking and the floor gets flooded by rainwater and sewer then not only their health is at risk but also their stock - and livelihood.

Some of the urban members are producers; they make shoes, dresses, carpentry products etc. The producers too are using their house as a small factory and the storage for any stock of goods produced and ready for sale. Their business depends on a roof that does not leak and a floor that can be kept dry.

Housing the biggest expense

Most of the urban members are tenants. Even the slum dwellers in their small shacks pay considerable amounts in rent every month. Even though it is the most affordable housing available to them it is expensive per square metre. In fact, the poor pay more in rent per square metre than the rich. But the poor have no choices.

If, however, they can build and own their own house they can pay the same amount of money per month in loan repayment and after a few years own the house. This will be a considerable saving in their household budget and provide options for investment in their businesses and their children's education.

Housing is the most effective way to introduce family planning
Experience shows that when a family has their own house, however humble, it results in a new determination to make sure all their children go to school. They have saved for some time to achieve this goal in life and they feel that they have taken a major step out of poverty. Once that decision is taken they need to plan how many children they can afford to bring through school and as a result they easily adopt family planning measures.

Housing programmes with the poor

Regrettably, very few donors are involved in supporting housing, and those involved are not targeting the poorest people.

The traditional sites and service schemes have failed largely because they did not involve the people in the planning and implementation of the programme. These are expert designed projects starting with the land and expensive infrastructure. By the time the plots are available they are already too expensive for the poor. The priorities are those of the experts. The poor often have other priorities.

They have to be able to afford the loan repayments on a monthly basis. Otherwise they will be forced to sell to those who are better off and the project ends up in the hands of the middle class, which is exactly what has happened to most sites and service schemes.

The house itself should be designed to allow additions and improvements as time goes by and the family can afford it.