Estimating the size of land for affordable housing project


The Sunday Nation


11 June 2023


I have been accused of over-promising and under-delivering in last week’s article. The heading read, “Is there enough land to build affordable housing units?”, yet I did not even attempt to establish the answer. Well, that was my initial idea but the article took a life of its own and headed a different direction – I am sorry.

The best way to approach the question is to start with an existing affordable housing project. The one at Pangani in Nairobi is an excellent example since it is being presented by government as the flagship. It has 1,562 houses built in a space of about 5.2 acres.

It is easy to see that the density of houses is about 300 units per acre – or 1,000 houses on every 3.3 acres. Now, the government has published a list of parcels of land to be set aside for the affordable housing project. I downloaded the document from the Boma Yangu website and totaled up the acreage of all the listed plots. They come to 2,035 acres.

The document further indicates that the desired density of houses is 200 on every 2.5 acres (one hectare). This works to about 80 units per acre. So, on the 2,035 acres currently available, the National Housing Fund can put up about 162,800 houses.

The actual planned number of units on these parcels of land is indicated and none has more than 200 units – regardless of the size of the plot. The grand total is not shown on the document, but I added up the individual values and found 30,240 houses. This just 19 per cent of the governments own declared capacity (162,800).

Using the density of the Pangani project (300 units per acre), it turns out that the 2,035 acres that have been identified can hold up to 610,000 houses. In other words, twenty times the number that has been planned.

The question then is: if the National Housing Fund is expected to raise Sh9 billion per month, why is the government planning to build only 30,000 houses on land that can accommodate over 600,000?

Before people get excited by the prospect of 600,000 houses, do not forget that they will be built with money collected from over three million employees! My conclusion after all this is that this National Housing Fund hasn’t been thought out at all. Nothing about it makes any sense.

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