Due to the recent increase in population growth and urbanization, the Kenyan housing sector has been unable to provide sufficient affordable housing to its residents. The shortage of both land and housing is a result of a complicated land tenure history, inefficient regulatory frameworks, and under-resourced projects to improve housing. Those most affected by the lack of housing are primarily from lower income groups.
In the urban areas, 84% of Kenyans rent houses while only 16% own their own homes. Households spend more than 30% of their incomes on rental accommodation. A lack of access to affordable financing exacerbates their difficulties in escaping the cycle of poverty.
The Kenyan population is projected to reach 38.8 million in 2012, with approximately 26.5 million living in rural areas and 12.3 million in the urban centres. Urban planning has not been able to keep up with the rapid urbanization in Kenya and the demand of housing far exceeds the supply. The need for new housing in urban areas currently stands at 150,000 units annually while only 23 per cent of this demand is being met. In rural areas, estimates show that over 300,000 housing unites require improvements each year. The gap between supply and demand is more relevant to low and middle income households who represent 48 percent of the required new houses.
The lack of appropriate housing has resulted in the expansion of informal settlements such as slums. Many people are forced into overcrowded establishments or are left completely homeless. Some researchers suggest that over 60% of Nairobi's population resides in slums. On average, 5 to 7 people share a single room in many of Kenya's informal settlements. The current living situation of many Kenyans has resulted in insufficient facilities, poor health standards, lack of infrastructure and environmental degradation. Without the security of a safe home, it is difficult to maintain employment, attend school, care for a family and ensure both mental and physical health. The economic, social and physical welfare of a household and community is strongly related to their access to decent and affordable housing. Marginalized groups such as women, youth, and those affected by HIV and AIDS or other illnesses are most at risk of these insecurities.
The lack of housing is a growing problem with various obstacles to overcome. However, WRJBH, along with international organizations, the Kenyan government, and national NGOs are working together to improve the quality of life of Kenyans by increasing their access to affordable and decent shelter.