Memorandum on BBI and the Housing Agenda

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From: The Housing Coalition

To: Building Bridges Initiative Task Force Government of Kenya

Title: Memorandum from the Urban Poor on the State of Housing Rights in Kenya

1. Preamble

We, the Housing Coalition, a network of Community Based Organizations and Civil Society Organizations engaged in preservation and protection of the Right to Adequate Housing Kenya, note with appreciation the Government of Kenya’s unprecedented ambition to build a great nation that is responsive to the urgent need for prosperity, fairness and dignity for all Kenyans. The Government has since then, through a Gazette Notice 5154 on May 31st, 2019, set up a 14- member Task Force to evaluate the national challenges outlined in the Joint Communique of Building Bridges to a new Kenyan nation and make practical recommendations and reform proposals to build a lasting unity. This initiative should significantly improve access to housing for the low income especially in terms of the development of new housing stock for the low-income housing market sector, especially because the BBI report mentions entrenchment of Article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya in the policies and standards that will be developed by the National Government to guide implementation. We, however, have concerns and recommendations that we believe, if considered, should significantly influence the inclusion of housing rights for urban poor in the final Building Bridges Initiative proposals and contribute to the referendum question, and subsequent implementation of the report.

2. Inequalities in the Urban Informal Settlements

While substantial efforts have been made at the national and county level with regards to housing, the right to adequate housing still remains a dream for many urban dwellers in Kenya, especially for low-income earners and those living in urban informal settlements in the country. This is largely due to a prevailing inadequate understanding and lack of common ground by the government at the county and national level on what constitutes social housing. These communities have also continuously faced the issue of evictions and forced eviction threats thereby inhibiting their enjoyment of access to the right to housing, especially where social housing has been conceptualized as upgrading of existing urban informal settlements. Threats and notices of evictions had been issued to residents of those urban informal settlements despite the fact that they were supposed to be the target beneficiaries of proposed social housing.

3. Right to Information

We appreciate the ongoing consultations with communities, civil society and the private sector on the process. There is a need to structure public participation to enable meaningful input into the initiative. Effective participation has been inhibited by the lack of detailed information and lack of proper mechanisms to get feedback on the BBI report. We believe that effective public participation will limit the opposition to this report.

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