Towards a housing strategy to support industrial decentralization: a case study of Athi River Town.
Kenyans are faced with an enormous task of hastening industrial development in support of the dominant agricultural base in order to attain the general development objective of improving their living standards. Various industrialization strategies have been formulated in order to attain such objectives to a wider cross-section of the Kenyan population. Chief among them is the decentralization strategy to deconcentrate industries from the major congested urban centres to other smaller ones and to the rural areas. This study steers towards generating housing strategies to support industrial development and the general urban decentralization process; taking Athi River Town as the case study area. Central to this study is the fact that, there is a nationwide problem of housing especially in the large urban centres which have, over the last two decades and a half or so, attracted tremendous rural-urban migrants seeking improved living conditions and especially employment in the industries and other related sectors. The main focus of the study is therefore to formulate better housing strategies for an industrial workforce in a growing industrial urban centre, of course, bearing the requirements of a general urban populat10n. Athi River has a fairly diverse industrial sector consisting of over 17 manufacturing industries most being labour intensive employing over 100 workers. It is Kenya's eighth leading industrial town in terms of employment in manufacturing and seventh in terms of earnings in manufacturing. In terms of employment, the prominence of manufacturing (83.5%) over other types of employment is unrivaled in Kenya, but takes a second position after Thika in terms of proportion of earnings from manufacturing (52.6%) to the total. This suggests that, most of the labour force in the town consists of an increasing number of unskilled and semi-skilled labourers who have limited economic capability to occupy or own good quality housing. The study did appreciate the housing problem in the town inspite of the various agencies that have responded by providing more housing. The study established the enormous role staff housing has and can play in providing better housing more effectively for industrial workers than any other methods. The flexibility of private housing initiatives, albeit often with compromised standards, irrespective of affordability,offers substantial opportunity and a house for everyone. Public housing is most commendable in providing good quality and relatively cheap housing to a general urban population (-at least compared to staff housing) particularly within the affordable limits of more low income households. As such, it is established that the roles of the three methods are indispensable if the housing problem is to be progressively surmounted principally because of their sectoral but, fairly overlapping contributions. Given the dwindling commitment of public resources on housing, consequent to shifting government policy away from public housing, this study orientates, as areas of emphasize, most of the recommended housing strategies towards mobilizing more resources of the private sector into housing both from the employer (the industry) to the worker and the private (individual) housing developer. This is either collectively, in partnerships or individually facilitated partly by government policy and housing associations. The economic realities, however, dictate continued (at least in the short term) public sector investment in rental housing developed with fairly long loan repayment periods to house especially more low income workers as well as provision of trunk services to facilitate private and staff housing developments. It was established that housing developments in Athi River could serve both local demand and external demand arising mainly from Nairobi. while primary emphasize should be to meet local demands to reduce relying on Nairobi for residences,surplus housing could easily serve the Nairobi market and thus in effect decongest. _ Nairobi and promote the suburbs. urban development in The study therefore suggests a framework of involving individual, industry, communal, local Authority and government resources to reinforce industrial development and the urban decentralization process. This will help not only attaining reasonable housing for the residents of Athi River Town but also go a long way in promoting industrial development and contributing in improving the general national economic performance.