A House Committee conducting public participation on the Affordable Housing Bill has been petitioned to address the public land compensation question, before rolling out the Affordable Housing Program to prevent future land disputes.
A section of the Joint- Committee sitting at the County Hall Mini Chambers in Parliament was told that there is need for the State Department of Housing to compensate communities for the commercial value of the public land in which the program will be implemented, in compliance with Article 62 of the Constitution and Article 10 on Good Governance.
Speaking when he shared his perspectives on the Bill, Advocate Vincent Ombaka who represented the Law Society of Kenya, noted that according to Article 62, Public land is held by the national government in trust for the people of Kenya and is to be administered on their behalf by the National Land Commission.
He called on the Committee to create a provision in the Bill outlining how the communities whom the land belongs to are to be adequately compensated for the commercial value derived from the affordable housing program.
“There is need for the Committee to address any aspects on constitutionality in this Bill. For instance, how do you compensate for commercial use of the land even where the land in question is public land? “, he posed.
While clarifying that the legal fraternity has no intention to stand in the way of what he termed as a ‘noble project’, he urged the Committee to thoroughly address the question on land among other aspects of constitutionality that have arisen in the process of considering the Bill.
His sentiments were echoed by Ms. Rose Mullyungi, a representative from the Kenya National Congress of Pentecostal Churches who observed that in dealing will the issue of land ownership , it were better to look for land elsewhere rather than demolish existing housing units to pave way for the affordable housing units.
Contributing on this debate, former legislator Hon. Sonia Birdi asked the Committee to consider a provision for willing private land owners to cede their land to government for program, especially in areas where there is no available public land. She noted that the Bill could offer a good juncture to entrench order in the building and construction industry through the adoption of a proper land use policy.
On their part, WestMinister Consulting called on the Committee to ensure that the Bill addresses the issues of inclusivity while ensuring that minimum standards and quality requirements for the housing units, are outlined. They noted that the Bill has overlooked specific challenges faced by individuals, particularly Muslims, who may not avail themselves the loan facility due to the presence of interest which contravenes Islamic Financial principles.
The consulting firm also proposed the amendment of Section 11(c) of the Bill to ensure that monies collected under the Housing Levy are ringfenced for that program . They argued that the current crafting of the provision does not guarantee that, adding that the money could be appropriated for other administrative functions.
“A more stringent mechanism should be implemented to ensure that the money collected for the construction of affordable houses will not be diverted for any other purposes”, they held.
The Architects Alliance of Kenya representatives led by Sen. (Dr.) Sylvia Mueni Kasanga, also made a presentation before the Committee. They expressed the Alliance’s interest in being represented in the proposed Affordable Housing Fund Board. The Association also proposed that the Chairperson be drawn from among professionals in the Built Environment space.
Noting that Housing under Schedule Four is a devolved function, they made a proposal to have County Housing Boards to develop policy tailor-made for various counties and responding to the specific county housing needs.
The ex- Senator who served in the 12th Parliament further emphasized on the need to rethink the proposed architectural designs so as to ensure that the housing units provide for green spaces, and make consideration on how living spaces can affect mental health
At the same time, representatives from people living in the informal settlements and slum areas lauded the Bill which they noted if enacted would enable them live dignified lives as it would improve their living standards though creation of jobs and decent housing.
They however called for affirmative action for people with disabilities, vulnerable groups and very low income earners who they noted cannot afford the proposed deposits for one to be guaranteed a housing unit. They called for inclusion of a provision in the Bill to protect the well do in society from oversubscribing for the units, thus denying them an opportunity for decent housing.
Reacting to these observations, legislators led by the Chairperson of the Departmental Committee on Finance and National Planning, Hon. Kuria Kimani assured the stakeholders present that the Committee would throughly review their input in view of enacting a progressive law.
“We want to thank you for your input. Very good suggestions have been made today. Indeed, this underscores the need for public participation. We shall carefully study all these submissions and see how they can enrich the Bill”, he said.
The Committee is expected to wrap up the public hearings tomorrow with the exercise taking place simultaneously at County Hall in Nairobi County and in Mombasa County.