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Revival of KBS puts a smile on home owners

The rapid growth of the local property market has resulted in high cost of houses. It has also made it almost impossible for ordinary citizens to own homes, especially in the city.

Apartments, for instance, cost up to Sh30 million, a price that is well beyond the reach of the majority.

However all is not gloom. A game changer is giving established developers a run for their money.

With a vision of making home ownership affordable, in May last year, Kenya Building Society (KBS), a subsidiary of Housing Finance Corporation (HFC), officially reopened its doors after 13 years.

And the firm is running construction projects valued at billions of shilling just months after takeoff.

Mr James Karanja, the KBS director said the firm’s main aim was to address housing needs of the middle and lower class people who have long been ignored by many developers.

“We will be supplying maisonettes at less than Sh10 million and apartments for less than Sh6 million in Nairobi,” he said.

In its ambitious plan of addressing  the needs of low income earners, the firm is in talks with county governments. It plans to build houses that will cost between Sh1.5 million to Sh3 million all over Kenya. To ensure that it provides houses at these prices, KBS hopes to apply cost effective construction methods.

According to Mr Karanja, there is a lot of wasted space in local construction plans.

“A three-bedroomed house in London, measures about 50 by 70 square metres yet locally it stands at 100 by 120 square metres,” he said.

He added that the houses offer the same luxury.

“The only difference is that one is economical with space. We plan to adapt some of the measures that London has in place,” he added.

The measures include quoting a very high price for clients demanding additional space.

The company also aims at reducing the cost of houses, improving efficiency and controlling quality by procuring finishes independently.

Adopting new affordable building technology like insulated panels tops its agenda too.

“Our greatest challenge is convincing Kenyans to adapt such technology,” he said.

Some of the capital intensive projects the company has been involved in are Komarock phase 1A featuring four bedroom maisonettes which have been developed at Sh1 billion. Each of the 162 sold-out units cost Sh6.9 million.

Another sold out project comprising 368 units is in Riruta. It cost the developer Sh1.5 billion.

Mr Karanja, however said the greatest impediment to ownership of houses is the lands office. He said there were unnecessary delays in issuance of title deeds.

“Delay in the transfer of ownership has a ripple effect. It means payment too is delayed,” he said.

Laxity by the county council to provide amenities like sewerage system and water has forced them to look for solutions elsewhere and this also translates to prices of houses increasing.