The contributions of informal housing in urban housing development: a case study of Kawangware in Nairobi
Existing evidence shows that Nairobi is experiencing a serious housing problem. The existing housing stock is wholly deficient while the existing conventional housing supply mechanisms, both private and public, are not able to meet the housing 'demand' leave alone the 'need'. This situation is worsened by the rapid urbanization process Kenya is experiencing accompanied by the accelerated growth of the urban population through natural increase and the unprecedented movement of people from the rural areas to urban centres (Nairobi receives a disproportionate share of the migrants). The lower income groups are the worst hit by the urban housing. With their low levels of income and the high costs of conventional housing these are confined to finding affordable accommodation in informal housing areas which are mainly characterised by semi-permanent and temporary housing, and lack of services, utilities and amenities. The persisting nature of informal housing in the urban areas and the fact that they house about 40% of the urban population shows that there is need to recognize the contribution of such settlements to the expansion of the urban housing stock especially for the low income groups. It is on the basis of the above that this study was designed to examine the possibilities of incorporating informal housing into the official urban housing stock. Taking Kawangware as a case study data are presented to show that informal housing are characterised by low levels of education with most of the inhabitants employed in informal sector activities mainly located in the residential area itself. The residents fall in the low income category of urbanites defined as those whose monthly earnings are less than Kshs. 2000. This limits the rent payment capacity of such a population; the majority of the residents, going by the Kawangware case study, can only pay maximum rents not exceeding Kshs. 200 per month. It is also evinced by this study that informal housing dwellers consider their housing adequate and are content with living in such dwellings built of non-conventional materials. The basic problem faced here is therefore one of poor health and sanitation (manifested in poor toilets, stagnant dirty water, and uncollected garbage, among others) and the lack of proper access roads, rather than of dwelling units. Using such findings, the study recommends the incorporation of informal housing into the official urban housing stock without upgrading at higher costs by improving only services and facilities. Such upgrading of services and facilities should therefore aim at minimum standards to avoid incurring alot of costs to the tenants through appreciated rents. This way informal housing can help increase the urban housing stock much faster.