Housing in Africa is already sparse. Therefore, the World Bank’s prediction that the urban African population will double over the next 25 years is a worrying statistic. At present, 56% of the continent’s urban population currently live in informal settlements. This has led to researchers from the World Resources Institute (WRI) to call for more affordable housing to help those who have lost their homes due to natural disasters, as well as to benefit low income families.
The current problem
With 6 out of 10 Kenyans living in informal settlements, it’s time to overhaul such accommodation. Robin King from the WRI Center for Sustainable Cities confirmed the issue, saying: “We think it’s a crisis when one-in-three households – one-in-three citizens that live in cities – don’t have adequate, secure or affordable housing.” WRI’s report stated that families are frequently moved from informal settlements to isolated communities located on the outskirts of the country’s major cities. These communities have very little services and facilities, which leaves individuals feeling secluded and having to spend out on commuting costs just to earn a living.
Upgrade informal settlements
To boost the nation’s real estate market and to overcome the country’s housing shortage, the report called for informal settlements to be upgraded. By doing this, residents could remain living in them, while benefiting from better safety, job opportunities, health and education. By taking simple measures to improve informal settlements, the economy would grow, social inequality would be reduced and the impact to the environment would decline, too.
Inspiration from South Africa
The WRI report highly praised South Africa’s Gauteng for legalizing backyard rentals and cutting the housing problem in Johannesburg. Backyard rentals are shacks or rooms located on the back of a property which homeowners rent out. Such a scheme would go down well in mainstream Africa, too. Typically, homeowners in the continent are middle-aged, with 44.4 years old being the average age of a South African homeowner. Seniors wanting to make an income from a backyard rental could create such a room by releasing cash from their home via a reverse mortgage. As a result, they would make a decent income in rent and would bolster the housing market, while those most in need would be grateful for the low-cost room and a roof over their head.
With so many of the population already living in informal settlements, it makes sense for these homes to be transformed and upgraded to provide better quality accommodation to the millions already living in them, as per the WRI’s report. To further boost housing, following the Gauteng’s lead in legalizing backyard rentals is a wise move for the government to consider, also.