Settlement upgrading: towards solving the housing problem of the lower income groups in Nairobi. (a case study of Pumwani Estate, Nairobi.)
Majale, Michael M
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Nairobi is experiencing a serious housing problem as the existing housing stock is wholly deficient, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The primary causal factor of the present situation is the inability of the existing conventional housing supply mechanisms to meet the 'demand', not to mention the 'need' for housing which has arisen as a result of the rapid process of urbanization Kenya has undergone, which has been accompanied by an accelerated growth of urban population caused not only by natural increase, but also the unprecedented movements of people from rual, agrarian areas to the burgeoning urban centes. The lower income groups, in particular, are confronted with a major housing crisis. Due to the their low level of income, the very low level of affordable housing, the high cost of conventional permanent housing and the failure of low-income housing projects to reach the target population, the urban poor are constrained to seeking accommodation in uncontrolled and unauthorized settlements which are characterized by deficient housing and a lack of services, utilities and amenities and hence insalubrious living conditions. As the public sector has limited resources and cannot therefore possibly furnish adequate affordable housing for all concerned, and since the private sector is preoccupied with profit maximization, the proliferation of uncontrolled settlements will continue as the lower income groups resort to their own resources to meet their shelter requirements. There is need therefore to recognize the contribution such settlements make towards the expansion of-the low-cost housing stock and to formulate an explicit and comprehensive policy which will constitute a framework within which development in this respect can take place. Through a case study of Pumwani, the study has evinced that residents in such settlements, which provide a transition from a rural to an urban lifestyle, apart from not being able to afford accommodation elsewhere, consider the housing adequate and are content to live in dwellings built of materials using traditional construction techniques. Moreover, these materials have patently demonstrated their durability. What the inhabitants find lacking is services, utilities and amenities. Thus, if provision is made for the phased improvement of structures and introduction of infrastructure, if apprehension about the future is eliminated, and if the self help potential of the residents is harnessed, the possibilities of settlement upgrading as a strategy for alleviating the housing problem of the lower income groups in Nairobi are considerable.