Co-ops plan to invest heavily in housing sector

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By Stephen Makabila

Under the Big 4 Agenda of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s last five years in office ahead of his retirement in year 2022, the co-operative sector is expected to be instrumental in the achievement of these agenda namely- Food Security, Affordable Housing, Manufacturing and affordable Health Care for all.
The Co-operative sector is supposed to play a major role in Kenyatta’s Big Four Agendas projects by shouldering 25 per cent of the planned housing provision.
The Government is keen on delivering 500,000 housing units by 2022 to enable more Kenyans own decent and affordable houses.
Commissioner for Co-operative Development Mary Mungai says Co-operatives will play a bigger role in affordable housing and food security.
On affordable housing, Mungai says the right to housing is acknowledged in our constitution under Article 43, and therefore, in order for co-operative sector to participate effectively in the Big 4 agenda and realize the Kenya Vision 2030 target, co-operatives must take advantage and play a crucial role in the provision of affordable shelter by bridging the gap in housing finance market.
“In this regard the Government will; restructure NACHU to play its role as a housing federation and support it to mobilize funds; provide tax relief to co-operatives societies that will be involved in housing development; support infrastructure development for housing projects and establish special co-operative bonds,” Mungai told Sacco Review.
She said: “On food security, we know agriculture remains the back bone of Kenya’s economy, co-operatives shall continue to play their role through agricultural value chain by; channeling farm inputs to improve production; facilitate investments in bulk storage facilities and post-harvest management, provide market linkages for agricultural produce and mobilize initial capital.”
The National Co-operative Housing Union (NACHU) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mary Mathenge said Nachu has the technical capacity to assist housing societies.
“We have special investors we work with while housing co-operatives have the land. We are already strategising on who contributes what to play our role effectively in housing provision,” said Mathenge.
The National Co-operative Development Policy draft is now ready pending Cabinet approval and thereafter submission to Parliament for it to be enacted as a Sessional Paper.
Stakeholders in the co-operative sector said the fast-tracking of this policy is necessary to see the sector play its effective role in the Big 4 agenda.
“The National Co-operative Development Policy is at its final stage, there after I will call upon stakeholders to contribute in the preparation of the amendments of the Co-operative Societies Act. I know the end results will enhance good governance, competitiveness and efficiency in service delivery to the members,” the Commissioner stated.
There is also the question of the Miscellaneous Amendment brought to parliament on special impact members in Saccos, which was strongly resisted by the Sacco leadership.
“I want to take this early opportunity to assure Saccos that the the amendment was referred back awaiting a comprehensive review of Co-operatives Societies Act Cap 490 which we will require their input,” Mungai said recently during the Ushirika Sports Day in a speech read on her behalf by Senior Deputy Co-operative Commissioner Geofrrey Njang’ombe.
Further, stakeholders in the sector will be watching how effective the National Assembly Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2017, which ushered in tax relief for the housing co-operatives, will be implemented for the benefit of the sector.
How effectively the newly formed Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company (KMRC) works will also be a concern.
NACHU CEO noted the sector had been offered two slots in the board of the company.
“As a co-operative sector, we are happy with the two slots. We are now supposed to identify those who are going to represent us on the seven member board,” said Mathenge.
Then there are also concerns on a section of the National Co-operatives (NACOS) and the co-operative sector players in general over lack of a Principal Secretary (PS) in the State Department of Co-operatives.
This is after immediate former PS Ali Ismail left office over failure to be re-appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta when he formed has Government earlier this year.
There is a growing feeling within the sector that given its critical role in President Uhuru’s major projects, the sector deserves a ministry of its own.
“The co-operative sector is strong and its importance cannot be downplayed,” Co-operative Bank of Kenya Director Benedict Simiyu, who doubles as the Chairman of Ngarisha Sacco, said.
Commissioner Mungai said the housing sector will achieve the targeted 25 per cent through collaboration with relevant stakeholders.
“The sector will sensitize housing cooperatives on existing Alternative Building Technology (ABTs) to enable majority of the low and middle income population segment to afford decent and affordable shelter. We will also do it by strengthening of NACHU to support primary co-operatives on professional and technical services including planning, architectural and quantity survey services,” noted Mungai.
She said Saccos will be encouraged to develop products for affordable long term financing tailored for housing while the sector will engage the Government to provide infrastructure such as access roads, electricity, and water and sewer line.”
Mungai explained that the State Department of Co-operatives will encourage formation of house buying co-operatives targeting mama mbogas, Boda Boda operators and jua kali artisans for uptake of subsidized houses being built by the Government.
“The sector will proactively source for local and international partners to provide the housing co-operatives with long term financing and technical expertise, and formulate policies to enable Saccos and in particular the Diaspora ones to participate in the proposed housing bonds of Kenya mortgage fund facility which shall be guaranteed by the Government,” added Mungai.

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