What James Macharia
and the building industry need to know about housing for all
When CS of transport and infrastructure James Macharia grabbed headlines, last week claiming to implement the 1.5 % housing levy. Several questions came to my mind as a public policy expert on diversity and inclusion.
Will the housing plans be accessible, how many persons with disabilities will benefit from the scheme? No regulations regarding accessible housing have been put across.
, it showed a clear lack of awareness about the situation facing people who need accessible housing.
A quick and random call among persons with disabilities soon clarified that accessible housing is a rare commodity in Kenya.
Housing finance and real estates in Kenya have not taken any concrete measure to ensure even at list wheelchair accessible houses.
Number of persons with disabilities have modified and customise an existing home if they need accessibility features.
Homes in the area are often high-set, or have stairs to the entries, or might have a feature like a sunken lounge.
I opine that It’s all about the space inside, and whether it is possible to navigate it easily.
When policy implementors put in mind the accessible needs, they aren’t doing for persons with disabilities but it’s for all. this is because the accessibility features will help in future. policy implementors need to plan for mobility-friendly home for
present and future occurrences. Some suggestions include:
As well as a level path to the entry, step-free entry and wide doorway, they look for features like a place under cover outside or inside near the front door to park and charge an electric mobility scooter. This is also not always easy to find in homes on the market.
Sadly, the situation in Dickson is not abnormal
But Nairobi is not unusual in having a dearth of dwellings suitable for those with accessibility requirements such as disability, age-related health issues, being on crutches following injury or grappling with infernal contraptions for conveying small children in and out of their property.
Nairobi is typical – and that is a major problem.
There are some moves afoot to change the way new homes are built – and more on that shortly – because the bottom line is that more inclusive and user-friendly housing that incorporates basic universal design would ensure homes work for just about anyone.
For people with disability, the lack of dwellings that meet basic Livable Housing Design Guidelines can compromise full participation in both economic and social life.
Importantly, the Kenyan disability sector has been silent on this critical concern. Notability, housing it’s one of the big 4 agenda by the president.
This shows how the disability stakeholders have not engaged sufficiency with the government and the building stakeholders.
There is lack of existing data on accessible housing and also ownership of homes by persons with disabilities.
Moreover, there are no guidelines or regulations on accessible housing nor available information on the current Kenya disability strategy.
The challenge is to policy makers to rise to the occasion and guarantee basic and accessible housing for all.
Additionally, there are specific difficulties and barriers created by the lack of affordable and appropriate housing near employment.
A lack of affordable, accessible housing directly affects employment opportunities including where a person can work, hours that they can work, access to training and promotion as well as all the social activities that come with being part of a workplace.
According to the United Nations, over three quarters of Africa’s population is under 35. Kenyan youth is over 20 per cent of the population — higher than
the world (15.8 per cent) and Africa (19.2 per cent) averages.
Kenya has the highest youth unemployment rate in East Africa. Youth inclusion into construction is imperative not only to employment security, but also to curb
the increasing social spiral into crime that unproductive and disenfranchised youth are vulnerable to.
It is prudent for policy makers and stakeholders realize that People with disability, like everyone else, need to have easy access and proximity to their places of employment.
“This includes ensuring there are strong and well-planned links between accessible housing, accessible public transport and an accessible built environment such as footpaths, premises and availability of accessible facilities such as toilets.
This is a challenge to the legislatures in both national and county governments to take the bull by its horn and ensure accessible housing policies are being developed and executed.
There are even barriers to engaging with the property market.
“Where employed or not, whether housing is being sought for purchase or in the private rental market, people with disability face numerous barriers to have our housing needs met.
“It is extremely difficult to find rental properties that are both accessible and affordable.” A blind client
Informed us. The county governments need to zero rate taxes for persons with disabilities in order to uptake ownership of property and building houses.
This is because It is also difficult to access funding and/or approval to make the necessary modifications to rental properties.
“The appalling experience by the Blind client is sadly a common experience for many people with disability.
“Many of us face difficulties in finding accessible housing in close proximity to our work and we often face highly restricted choices in where we can live. The experience also highlights the poor attitudes and a lack of understanding that still exists within the community as we navigate and negotiate our way around a largely inaccessible environment.”
How far off is industry on delivering accessible housing for all?
This is still a pipedream to attain the 500.000 houses by 2022.
I believe if the government and policy makers can have a consensus from government, property developers, and advocates for older people and people with disability for basic access features to be rolled out in all new homes by 2025.
We are likely we will get there.
The basic design features for minimum universal design features such as a level point of entry to the dwelling; step-free showers that allow for seated use and toilets in a ground floor bathroom with room to manoeuvre; wider doorways and corridor widths should have a focus of establishing a Kenyan Building Codes Board.
The board should pursue research and endeavour to produce quarterly reports on accessible housing for all.
While wheelchair users as a specific group of people with disability are a small proportion of the population, I affirm that the accessibility features are also important for people to age in place.
Social housing is not the answer for all people with disability, as there are those who have well-paid jobs. Parliamentarians with disabilities, for example, are often in full-time employment and earning incomes that allow them full independence. There are also many livings with other family members in a family home
All in all, the house building industry has not “come to the party” of its own volition on delivering universal design features as a standard product.
Hence the need for changes to the construction code to make it happen.
Real estate is generally resistant
Private Real estate are reluctant to include access features even when asked.
“If you engage an architect for a custom build then yes, you can get level access to the alfresco,” she says.
The reality is accessible housing ready to move into simply isn’t easy to find – and even when a home is accessible, there is no easy way for buyers to identify those properties.
I also take note that Many builders also see providing disability-friendly housing as a Kenyan government responsibility.
There are also an attitude older people should be moving into specifically back to the rural places not expecting the mass market to cater for their changing needs.
However, with the statistics showing that around 35 per cent of households include a person with a disability, this is a mass market need.
“That’s a big chunk of the population.”
The lack of accessible housing also impacts who can visit a dwelling. many people “just put up with it” when they realise a family member or friend cannot visit their home due to an un-navigable entry or internal features.
The lack of interest in delivering accessible housing also means there are few putting thought into design for accessibility.
Good design doesn’t mean there will be “ugly” grab bars everywhere as many people think.
“It doesn’t need to look like a person with a disability lives there.”
The reluctance to make accessible design a basic and universal part of dwellings is not an outrageous demand on the industry.
I observe that We already have so many universal features such as walls, roof and windows.
It is not a stretch from these types of universal features to making accessibility standard so that more homes are useable by more people across their lifespan.
“It’s not rocket science. [These features] are already included in many high-class homes in Kenyan surbabs. technical problems have already been overcome.”
As to the argument the accessibility features will cost more – which was a feature of the builders–Any added cost is due to the need for subtrades to change the standard practices, and in going back and undertaking re-work where they have done things in the usual “cookie cutter” fashion and failed to deliver specified universal design features.
I call it the “hump cost” – the initial adjustment required to get the industry onboard with doing things slightly differently.
Ultimately, accessibility in housing is just about “thoughtful design and useability for the maximum number of people.
The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy and diversity and inclusion expert.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy and diversity and inclusion expert.