KENYA: “A dream come true” for many slum residents

A view of the homes in Huruma being built under COOPI’s slum upgrading project – Photo: Salla Himberg/IRIN

source: irinnews.org

In the last 4 years, COOPI has been undertaking an informal settlements upgrading project in Huruma, Kenya where currently 200 houses have been constructed with facilities like water, electricity, sewer and drainage connections. This has been made possible by a system where COOPI pre-finances 80% of the house construction costs while the families contribute 20% through home loans obtained from group saving schemes.

Please read more about this innovative project in the article released by IRIN news today titled: KENYA: “A dream come true for many slum residents”.

The project which has drawn to a close was managed by Chiara Camozzi with Pamoja Trust as an implementing partner. Other project components have included advocacy on land tenure issues as well as promoting peace in the communities through social events like football tournaments and music concerts.(Amani Kwetu, Ujirani Mwema 2008 and Cheza 2009)

NAIROBI, 23 February 2010 (IRIN) – Four years after an innovative slum-upgrading project was launched in Huruma, to the northeast of the Kenyan capital, at least 200 households are now living in improved homes, complete with infrastructure such as running water, sewage connection, electricity, drainage, paving and renovated toilet blocks.

“We have at least 50 houses still under construction. We hope to complete these in the near future as the project comes to an end,” said Chiara Camozzi, project manager for the Italian NGO, COOPI, which spearheaded the project.

Initially planned to take three years (2005-2007), the 1.5 million euro (US$2.1 million) project has stretched into 2010 due to complications, such as the post-election violence of early 2008, which affected parts of Huruma. COOPI is the project’s implementing agency, with the Italian ministry of foreign affairs one of the main donors.

To begin with, the beneficiaries pay 20 percent of the cost of the house through local saving schemes, Camozzi said.

“Thereafter, they get a loan for the remaining 80 percent that they have to repay, so at the end of the process they will pay all the cost of the house,” she added.

It costs at least 300,000 shillings ($3,850) to complete one house, a three-level 50 sqm structure that can be built in phases, subject to cash availability. COOPI supports the construction of the infrastructure and Pamoja Trust, a local NGO, provides social and technical support.

David Maina, 29, one of the beneficiaries of the project, cannot wait to finish paying for his two-bedroom house.

“I have about three years to go to complete payment for my home; I am looking forward to when the house will be fully complete and I will be a home-owner,” he told IRIN. “I have no plans to sub-let or sell it; owning the house is a dream come true for me.”

In the 1990s, residents of informal settlements across the city, including five villages of Huruma, which have since benefited from the COOPI project, were often subjected to forced evictions by city council officials. These evictions gave rise to a community initiative, the Muungano wa Wanavijiji, a network of community savings groups. Residents of Kambi Moto, Gitathuru, Mahira, Ghetto and Redeemed villages formed savings groups to facilitate access to home loans.

Brokered by COOPI and Pamoja Trust, an agreement was signed in 2002 between the Huruma community and the Nairobi City Council, with the council committing itself to transfer the land occupied by the informal settlement to the community, in accordance with a community land tenure system.

The city council also designated Huruma a “special planning area”, facilitating the adjustment of conventional planning standards and the adoption of a “more appropriate” building code.

Camozzi said this was important because the application of high construction standards and the usual procedure to issue title deeds were some of the elements blamed for the failure of previous slum upgrading.

“In the past, after the redevelopment of an area and the delivery of new houses, the dynamic of the market caused the expulsion of the targeted beneficiaries, replaced by better income populations [and thus] shifting the problem from one area to another,” Camozzi said.

Another slum-upgrading project is under way in Kibera, reputed to be Africa’s largest informal settlement, also in Nairobi. Supported by UN-HABITAT and the World Bank Cities Alliance, the project targets thousands of slum dwellers. Already, hundreds of households have moved into improved housing units in flats built near the slum.

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