Politics of urban housing: A case study of Buru Buru housing scheme
Akwara, Elung'ata B
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One of the most pressing social problems in the developing world is lack of adequate shelter particularly in the cities. This is a result of rapid urbanization and incapability of governments to provide sufficient housing. The aim of this study is to find out the main socia-economic factors which have been responsible for the poor state of housing in Nairobi. This is done by the means of a case study of Buru Buru tenant-purchase scheme which is geared toward middle-income wage earners. The following aspects of the scheme are explored: Planning and financing; implementation; the social character of the estate's population and political life. The"extent to which the scheme is meeting the objective of serving the middle income groups and the implications to urban housing and politics is examined. In this study, we see cities as reflections of a wider socia-economic structure. In the context of the under-developed world, iach country has been shaped and moulded in a particular way and to a certain extent by external socia-economic forces. These forces emanate from the international capitalist system. Consequently, problems that are apparent in cities are only outward symptoms'", and these symptoms should not be regarded as causes';of disease''. This framework is then applied to the study of the growth of urban housing policies in Nairobi. We point out the existence of a relationship between the development of capitalism in Kenya and the nature of urban housing. We show that the differences between the colonial setting and the post-independence scene with respect to residential housing, are only those of degree. The housing shortage has continued to persist and indeed worsen more so among the low-income and the unemployed. This is reflected by the existence of slums. Officially, part of the solution is seen to lie in tenant purchase schemes. But tenant-purchase schemes do not seem to solve housing shortage either. The schemes are great money spinners. The middle and upper classes benefit from houses built under such schemes because of the profit element which is further guaranteed by that housing shortage. This is the result of tenant-purchase schemes. The schemes are also important since they serve both ideological and political functions. Since the state is finding it straining to cope with housing shortage which is partly fuelled by rural-urban migration, it intervenes into the sector, building industry, and with the use of planning, it generates support in urban society while at the same time guaranteeing the dominance of the upper class. Rent Restriction Acts are also some of the tools used by the state for ideological and political purposes, they are aimed at controlling exploitative rent increases but in the case of Buru Buru, we show that they do not. Finally, we argue that housing shortage cannot be studied in isolation but has to be seen in the light of the many features of underdevelopment. It is therefore the contention of this thesis that as long as the economic system remains integrated in the international capitalist system, which is the force behind underdevelopment, it is not possible for the state to formulate housing policies which can realistically be geared towards resolving housing problem.