Nairobi News


Unlike Ruto, here is how Uhuru built affordable houses without taxing public

In 2017, during his second term, former president Uhuru Kenyatta aggressively pushed for a housing fund that would deliver 500,000 affordable homes to Kenyans as part of his Big 4 Agenda.

In one interview, sitting before a battery of journalists, the ten head of state explained why he was pushing for the fund to go into operation.

“We want our Kenyans to be home owners. That is what we are trying to do. We are misleading people by telling them it is a tax but it is not a tax. It is a saving and a contribution towards owning a home; that ultimately, even if you don’t get a house, that money goes back to the individual. That is why I initially talked about building and developing a culture of saving in society. When people out there are saying we are taxing, its like we are taking money away from people,” Mr Kenyatta said at the time.

Mr Kenyatta also addressed concerns that contributing to this fund would be by choice. He said since independence, Kenya had about 200,000 mortgage owners at that time and people who were given limiting 5-year loans to pay for houses thus creating environments for financial corruption to take place. His housing fund, therefore, was a means of pushing for a system and culture where someone is able to say they can be able to borrow for 20 years because they have a job, have 20-30 years of work lie left and can have an affordable mortgage to get a good house.

Also read: Raila – You can’t introduce Housing Fund in a depressed economy

“If the government doesn’t get involved in that process, if all Kenyans don’t get involved in that process, we continue with this system that becomes exorbitant; and that is why we don’t have affordable houses in this country. You need to actually look at where we are coming from and where we are trying to go to. What we are trying to say is that if we want Kenyans to be home owners, we must develop and build products that actually make that possible,” he said.

Despite his intentions, the proposals to levy Kenyans to pay for his affordable houses were challenged at the High Court and the scheme was temporarily blocked in 2018.

In 2019, to do away with all the legal hurdles, Mr Kenyatta ordered the stopping of plans to make contributions to the housing fund by employees and their employers compulsory.

Also read: President Ruto enumerates merits of his affordable housing scheme

The retired president ended up working in partnership with financial institutions, private developers and manufacturers to build the affordable houses. By 2021, Mr Kenyatta’s government had constructed approximately 250,000 of the projected 500,000 homes.

Fast forward to 2023. President William Ruto, who served as Mr Kenyatta’s deputy president, returned with the same housing levy scheme. In his proposal, he intends to have employees contribute three per cent of their salaries to the fund, and their employers match their contributions. President Ruto claims the housing scheme will save 6.5 million Kenyans living in slums.

The proposed seven-year mandatory contribution has ignited an endless debate in the general public opposition politicians and their supporters strongly opposed to housing fund.

There is the argument that it makes no sense to for people who already own homes to be compelled to contribute to the fund for homes that will cost upto Sh3million and that will take more than 20 years for a person to fully own.

Others have also pointed out the risk of losing the house if one does not pay consistently and having to wait seven years to get a refund in the event one is not allocated a house despite paying for it.

Also read: Nyeri pastor claims Ruto’s affordable housing scheme is only for the rich