The housing issue is a major debacle in Kenya. The fast growing urban population has led to acute shortage of housing facilities especially for the middle to low income bracket of the populations. Most people cannot afford the high rental charges that landlords mercilessly mete on their tenants. As a result, a majority of urban dwellers are forced to live in crammed up and substandard apartments till they can afford to move into better facilities or build their own homes.
The dream of home ownership is however one that is difficult to achieve even for those with full time middle income employment. Mortgage rates are substantially high compared to rental homes thus forcing people to opt for the latter. In 2013 for example, the best mortgage rates were between 15.5% – 16% with some banks offering mortgages with an interest rate as high as 22%.
The situation is not any better in the rural areas. Despite the availability of land and locally sourced construction materials such as sand and natural stone, most people still reside in traditional huts and poorly built structures because they cannot afford to build.
So what next for the urban and rural dweller who desire to own decent homes yet cannot afford the expensive affair that is construction?
The prefabricated housing unit could just be the solution to the housing crisis in the country. Prefabricated houses are developed in the factory and are assembled on site. They consist of wall panels made of concrete and polystyrene, steel or wood panels. The wall panels are jointed with screws to enhance their strength.
All other components besides the foundation and floor slab come with the package and all you have to do is order the prefabricated units in accordance with your plan.
Despite the fact that prefabricated housing units are supposed to significantly reduce the average cost of construction, this was not the case in Kenya as the materials, especially the wood and steel panels for walls had to be imported from China. Shipping and customs costs as well as the cost of transportation to site made it uneconomical to construct using these materials.
However, the National Housing Corporation came to the rescue with the inception of the prefabricated houses as a solution to the housing deficit in the country. The NHC in liaison with the government recently constructed a factory to produce standard prefabricated units in an effort to make the new technology widespread. Mr. James Ruathi, the CEO of NHC, said that the units could reduce construction costs by 30- 40%. The units can be completed within 14 days excluding the floor slab. Their fast completion and cost effective nature will benefit those investing in rental units and are eager to get their money back in the shortest time possible.
There is no difference between the prefabricated houses and masonry units in terms of structural strength and thus clients need not worry about the durability of the houses. Neither is one tied to the restriction of building a single unit as the development in the new technology enables the construction of multi storied buildings using the same. The NSSF Nyayo Estate in Embakassi is perhaps the perfect example of large scale development done using prefabricated materials.
Eco Homes Kenya in corporation with Mabati Rolling Mills have also ventured into the prefabricated housing development market. They are focused on providing high quality and affordable family homes. A regular three bedroom house will cost a buyer only 1.9M inclusive of VAT. The houses can also be customized to suit an individual’s taste.
Other than their affordable nature and their ease of construction, a buyer need not worry about supervision of fundis and theft of construction materials such as cement and paint on site. Also, minimum labour is required for assembling of the house. Low waste is generated on site and the overall environmental impact is very little compared to ordinary stone and concrete homes.
Many companies are now producing prefabricated units and obtaining these products is no longer a headache to the consumer. Besides National Housing Corporation and Eco Homes, other suppliers are Hong Kong Building Centre, Prime Ventures International, Economic Housing Groups, Lodestar Construction, Inesa and Elsek Limited. Most of these leading dealers have show houses where interested persons can obtain all the necessary information with regards to constructing a prefabricated house.