Low-cost housing seen as answer to urban housing problems

Wednesday April 29 2015

K É A house in Mlolongo built using the

K É A house in Mlolongo built using the Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) panels. PHOTO| VERAH OKEYO 

By VERAH OKEYO
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In 2011, the UN-Habitat estimated  that African cities will become home to over 40,000 people and the shortage of housing an unattainable dream for most households.

With an urban population growth at 4.2 per cent annually, Nairobi alone requires at least 120,000 new housing units annually to meet demand, yet only 35,000 homes are built, leaving the housing deficit growing by 85,000 units every year.

Coupled with the acute shortages, is the rising number of issues that any aspiring homeowner or institution seeking to set up facilities has to confront: HassConsult Real Estate’s 2015 report indicated a steep climb in land prices and ownership processes in Nairobi.

Even if the challenge of land is surmounted, there is the increased cost of construction materials, the high land rates and construction permit rates that have been increased close to 200-fold by the city council.

Koto Housing Kenya (KHK) hopes to address this issue by providing affordable housing for Kenya’s lower income population.

For as little as Sh1.5 million and as much as Sh2.9 million, one can get a permanent two bedroom KOTO house of 105 square metres in just 21 days. George Adulu, KHK’s head of business development and marketing, tells DN2 that a five-bedroom house would cost Sh8.5 million and would take the same number of days to construct.

One of their clients, a Kenyan in Australia, sent money to ensure that her house  would be ready when she comes returns in a month. The pricing of these hoses includes basic finishing of tiles, windows and wardrobes.

“The prices could go up slightly higher if the client wants special and more expensive finishing”, Mr Adulu said.

While stressing that the KOTO houses are not prefabricated or temporary, KHK’s architect Musembi Mumo explained how the 21 days construction is achieved: “There is no foundation dug as is done in the normal construction”.

Is that so? So how is the house stable against the force of wind?

“The principle used in its foundation is the same as that of buoyancy where ship may be heavier than a car but float as the car sinks,” says Mr Mumo.

Koto Housing’s use of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) panels has been a source of skepticism on whether the house will not collapse one day with its inhabitants inside.

But he explains that the panels  are fortified by a special formulae of concrete enveloped in between a mesh other elements that add to the strength of the house, steel is also a proponet used in the construction.

The company cites the more than fifty years of positive reports from Malaysia where the technology originated as proof of just how durable the houses are. 

Mr Adulu has been attending conferences with school owners and health facilities and he shows us contruction plans and artists impressions that include  a four-storey hostel that can accommodate 252 students for Sh60million and can be completed in six months.

QUOTED PRICES

The quoted prices will include an abolution block, two double decker beds and closets for the four students that will occupy each room. The same hostel, also features 96 self-contained rooms with a kitchenette would cost Sh5 million and can also be completed in six months.

A plan for secondary or a primary school that would be constructed in 90 days, consists of eight classrooms, each measuring 78 square metres of space enough for 40 students — a computer and science laboratory as well as administration block. The administration block would have a teachers dining area, bursar’s office as well as the head teachers’ office  and altogther would cost Sh40 million.

However this does not include housing needs such as bio digesters and sanitation systems.

“Public skepticism seems to be fading,” Mr Adulu says pointing out that apart from Jamii Bora Bank with whom they have a partnership to provide credit facilities for prospective clients other banks and cooperative societies have expressed interest in pursuing a partnership with Koto Housing Kenya. Their showhouse in Mlolongo, Machakos County has received more than 3,000 visitors.

However, the company is not apathetic to the fact that the technology will be resisted because the need for people to carry stones and construction material will be eliminated.

There is also no need to keep paying contactors on a daily basis as the money is paid to KHK upfront and the construction goes on with the client uninvolved.