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Low-cost housing project begins next month

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The ambitious government housing project, to be launched next month, must overcome a number of challenges, if it is to succeed. First is the cost of land. A recent report by property firm Knight Frank showed that land values in Karen, Nairobi, have risen by more than 3,200 per cent in 20 years. This means an average increase from Sh2 million per acre in 1998 to the current Sh65.

In its price index published on April 19, 2018, property consultant HassConsult reported an improvement in asking sales and rents across all properties for the first quarter of 2018.

They reported that overall, asking sales prices increased by 2.4 per cent during the first quarter of 2018, boosted by a strong showing in the house sales market that recorded a 2.7 per cent increase.

The trend means that the market is slowly returning to normal after a tumultuous electioneering period. However, prices could still rise, driven by the increase in building costs and overheads due to the tax on petroleum products.

Land: Kenyans are moving to the outskirts of the city and satellite towns like Thika, Ongata Rongai, Kitengela and Athi River, where land is cheaper. But this has seen land prices in those areas skyrocket.

Addressing this issue, Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) Director and Nairobi university lecturer Hellen Nzainga said, “We must also be alive to the danger of financially stronger Kenyans buying houses meant for middle-income Kenyans, which is called gentrification, as well as urban sprawl, caused by city dwellers buying land adjacent to the city.” she said.

Ms Nzainga stressed the need to cultivate a saving culture.

She asked the government to tread carefully when issuing title deeds and reclaiming land on which private developers have encroached.

“Some of the land now considered government property has been inhabited by families, some having lived there for three generations. We need to approach the issuing of titles and reclamation of such land with care, bearing this in mind,” said Ms Nzainga.

Materials: The cost of construction material costs are also rising, given that Kenyans prefer the traditional stone and mortar to model technology. Not only are these materials expensive because they are in high demand, but they also slow down construction time, further inflating the cost.

This is in sharp contrast with the West, where advances in technology have seen the industry adapt modern construction methods, including prefabricated houses, expandable polystyrene panels (EPS).

Dimensions Architect boss and Home Afrika real estate developer Lee Karuri said the new technology has been introduced in the country, and that it will greatly contribute to the rapid development large-scale housing.

Costs: Construction costs also remain high, partly due to the outdated Building Code, which regulates the materials to be used to build, and the levies imposed by the different construction regulatory bodies like the National Construction Authority.

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Ms Nzainga said Kenya should emulate Singapore’s housing scheme, which she termed “a model of successful provision of housing for the people”. She said the regulatory framework governing the sector needs to be greatly simplified to facilitate doing business.

Taxes: Taxation of building materials was identified as another constraint. Mr Harry Njagi, group head of marketing at Mabati Rolling Mills (MRM), said: “Affordable housing goes beyond finding finances for cheaper housing. If the government can reduce the levies charged on building materials, we will be happy to sell them cheaper, so that ordinary Kenyans can afford them. We should apply the same model of incentives we gave the boda boda industry, which made them cheaper, if we want to solve the cost dilemma in housing,” he said.

Approach: Architectural Association of Kenya President Emma Miloyo emphasised the need for a holistic approach.

“Sixty per cent of Nairobians live in slums while 86 per cent rent houses. We cannot just look at it (the programme) in terms of the number of houses but also need to include the number of schools, hospitals, markets and other utilities that will need to be built. This cannot just be a ministry (of Housing) job,” she said.

She said the association’s six-point plan titled “The Kenya we Want” released last year was incorporated into the State’s housing development pillar, adding that the project will have a lasting impact on the sector.

“We are happy that the government not only took our proposal seriously, but incorporated it into the “Big Four” housing pillar. This marks the beginning of interesting times for the construction industry as the project will not only have a disruptive effect, but also spur growth in the sector,” she said.

However, she warned that the project risked going of the Kibera Slum Upgrading Project way, where slum dwellers who had benefited from modern houses rented them out and moved back to their shanties.

“We need to ensure that the cost of living for the beneficiaries does not exceed their current expenditure levels, forcing them to cater for new expenses like power and extra water bills. This could force them to opt for their former residences, where life is more affordable, she said.

Corruption: The architect said corruption in the issuing of title deeds and the difficulties in doing of business in the country remain big impediments to housing. “Kenyans need their confidence boosted and affirmed by the government such that, if they put their money in a property project, it will not be lost later due to demolitions or repossession over improper titles or other irregularities,” she said.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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