Transformation of Low-Cost Public Housing in Urban Kenya: A Case of Umoja Phase I, Nairobi

Effects of urbanization on service provision in urban centers in Kenya have taken a worrying trend. Urban population increase against un-expanding infrastructural facilities in urban centers has resulted into strain in the service provision levels, an indication of high demand on the existing and overstretched facilities. Against the background of, but not limited to, the ever increasing demand for housing facilities; the increase in occupancy ratio, the majorly privatized urban land, profit-oriented housing market, high cost of urban land; urban authorities are overwhelmed and are therefore offering inadequate services to urban dwellers in Kenya vis-a-vis housing provision.

The problem of the study was that transformations which is the alteration or modification or extension of a dwelling unit either vertically or horizontally. All these are done in the presence of well-laid down legal and institutional frameworks.

The aim of the study was to examine the nature and causes of transformations within planned and built urban residential neighbourhoods, on the basis of the existing building code and housing standards in Nairobi Kenya. This was done by establishing the nature of housing transformations, reasons as to why transformations take place and the knowledge of developers of the existing governing institutions and by-laws.

To achieve the stated objectives, the study employed a variety of methods. These included both first and second degree methods of data collection. For the first degree, the study used; household questionnaires, photo-shooting, key informants while second degree data was collected using the library facilities viz journals, magazines, books, internet and many others. Data that was collected was analysed using various techniques key among them was the use of Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) and later on presented in form of frequency tables, bar graphs, pie charts, and many others.

The study found out that the occurrence of transformation activity is mainly caused by social reasons (expansion of household size), economic and demand-driven reasons (housing-demand, home-based enterprises (HBEs), physical and design-related reasons (plot ratio) and institutional causes (rigidity of the by-laws and corruption at the development control centers).

The study concluded that the effects of housing transformations are two-pronged. Some are positive (HBEs., housing provision) while some are negative (environmental degradation and others).

The study recommended that there is; need to review the building and planning standards and regulations, need to carry out civic education on planning and building by-laws on their importance and need to (the future) plan for dwellings that will accommodate bigger families, accommodate HBEs and provide working space for the dwellers.

It also recommended that Residential Neighborhoods Associations (RNAs), to be capacitated by way of legalizing their status, to enhance their capacity in planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation, quality leadership to ensure quality and sustainable neighborhood management through participatory process.

It was also recommended that the government should introduce a financial policy that is friendly to low-income earners with affordable interest rates to enable them build their own home /houses incrementally.

The study also recommended two areas for further research including; firstly the area of Planning and Building laws and regulations with regard to how it influences transformation as a process and how it should be revised to accommodate the positive sides of transformations and secondly the area of the roles of RNAs in managing neighborhoods for sustainable growth and development.

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