Affordable housing

Digitisation and knowledge portal to promote affordable housing

July 21st, 2021

Recent technological innovations in Kenya are going far in supporting the growth of Kenya’s affordable housing market, by providing an opportunity to leapfrog the less flexible systems that have  dominated housing supply in the past. FSD Kenya hosted the second Affordable Housing Working Group Webinar on June 22nd, 2021, to look at how spatial base mapping, and the expected National Land Management Information System might support Kenya’s affordable housing goals.  The webinar was attended by 100 stakeholders in the sector. It showcased FSD Kenya’s online research portal, providing access to research and documents produced by sector stakeholders across key value chain categories.  The webinar recording is available, together with the presentations that were given.  Below is an overview of the discussion from presentations by FSD Kenya, Ramani Geosystems, Oakar Services, CAHF and Reall.

FSD Kenya has been promoting the enabling environment for affordable housing via the digitisation of land information management systems in Laikipia (discussed by Ramani Geosystems and Oakar Services), and the development of a Knowledge Portal as part of the Open Access initiative.   Highlighting this work,  Seeta Shah of FSD Kenya [minutes 1 to 10 of recording] gave a quick recap of the rationale behind the FSD Strategy for affordable housing and why rental housing was so important.

FSD Kenya is developing and evaluating the feasibility for financial products including the safe transfer of pension assets into housing, a bundled micro-fire insurance product, a partial credit guarantee to promote offtake financing to the informal sector, and piloting a rent relief fund. Further, FSD Kenya is stimulating climate smart housing with creation of green building guidelines, a green materials and services directory and supporting the small landlord sector with adopting EDGE and alternative building technologies.

FSD full presentation

Daniel Haywood, CEO of Ramani Geosystems [minutes 11 to 23 of recording] shared the highlights of a spatial base mapping project of 60 sq km of Nanyuki town being undertaken with FSD Kenya support.

Ramani is a GIS and mapping company. Daniel explained that spatial base mapping is the development of background and reference data to enable additional information to be overlayed and can be done to different accuracies depending on the need and methodology. Here the base map was created by establishing a ground control network to tie all datasets together, take aerial photography and laser scanning (LiDAR), and extract the data into GIS layers. The maps created have much better clarity than google earth or satellite imagery as they are taken from just a kilometre above ground level. The outputs of Ramani’s work include a seamless aerial image, a LiDAR point cloud which helps extract building and vegetation heights; digital terrain and surface models which are useful in engineering and hydrology. The spatial GIS layers extracted included Infrastructure (roads, railways, power), settlement layers (buildings, boundaries), drainage and vegetation.

FSD Kenya is interested in base mapping to support Affordable Housing delivery by identifying suitable sites and providing data for feasibility without too much additional cost (infrastructure availability, topographical survey, risk identification, etc).Base mapping also uplifts the quality of land information management systems (LIMS) as it overcomes poor (or lack of) georeferencing that is typical of cadastral maps that need to be fed into the LIMS. Other benefits of base mapping for counties include spatial planning, revenue collection, street addressing, property valuation, agriculture management, disaster management, asset management and transport infrastructure. Daniel clarified that the cost and time of creating a base map are highly dependent on whether it is a rural or dense urban setting. In this project, the data generated will be owned by the county as it can become a source of revenue for the county.

Ramani full presentation

Eric Nyadimo, Managing Director of Oakar Services

[minutes 23 to 37 of recording] gave a background on the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning’s efforts to automate land records and create a National Land Information Management System (NLIMS). which date back over 20 years. Components of a LIMS include the computer hardware and software (GIS, database management and security), spatial data, organisational procedures, human resources and legal frameworks and regulations. Oakar is a geospatial solutions provider.

A taskforce appointed for this purpose gave its report in 2019. The report  recommended a comprehensive roadmap to actualize the National Land Information Management System (NLIMS). This  required the formulation of the Land Registration (Electronic Land Transactions), It also proposed  amending various statutes to embed electronic transaction which were made and informed the Business Laws (Amendment) Act. A second taskforce was enacted in 2020 which formulated regulations to govern the NLIMS and cover land registration, survey, valuation and stamp duty and led to the launch of Ardhisasa, the first-ever comprehensive NLIMS in April 2021. Ardhisasa which currently covers parts of Nairobi, will move to surrounding counties and then nationwide in the next phase.

Kenya is fortunate to have a parcel-based land registry already; a series of large-scale maps and the structure of the existing manual system permits growth and makes it suitable for relatively easy migration to a NLIMS.

FSD Kenya sees the importance of transparent land information management as far-reaching: from the security of tenure enabling development due to access to credit and reduction of land disputes; to monitoring property markets to guide spatial planning, tax collection and environmental management. The current manual system has challenges of duplicated data, difficulty in searching, editing and retrieving records, storage and maintenance challenges, disconnected and redundant processes leading to long transaction timeframes and most importantly, manual systems are prone to ‘manipulation.’ An electronic system would overcome these process and productivity challenges and enable more effective collaboration and decision making across different government departments. The eventual goal is to promote sustainable investment and development.

FSD Kenya is working with Oakar and Laikipia County to determine the readiness of Laikipia County to implement a county LIMS. This project will look at the status of the county valuation rolls, spatial plans, availability of land parcel data, and assessment of the human and technical resources. Oakar’s experience includes previous work in Kakamega, Kilifi, Kisii counties, and setting up an integrated GIS lab for the National Land Commission.

Oakar full presentation

Kecia Rust, Executive Director of Centre for Affordable Housing Finance for Africa (CAHF)

[minutes 38 to 51 of recording] discussed the framework being developed to ‘crowdsource data to understand the baseline’ of the affordable housing sector better. Over the last three years, CAHF, Reall and 71point4 have been championing a ‘Data Agenda for Africa’ recognising that all investors (public investors, private investors, and households themselves) require data to make good housing investment decisions. This effort defined 115 Market Shaping Indicators (typically sourced or available from public sources), and undertook data landscape audits in eight countries including, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Morocco, and later in Rwanda. The pilots revealed that contrary to perception, there is an enormous amount of data being collected, but it is not well organized around the housing sector or easily accessible.

This led to a question about crowdsourcing housing data from the private sector driven by creating an Open Access platform (previously ‘Open Source’). The answer to this is the formulation of an Affordable Housing Investment Alliance (AHIA). Their  founding members are FSDAi, FSDA, FSD Kenya, CAHF, Reall and International Housing Solutions (an investee of FSDAi). The AHIA is being formally launched later in the year and will collect information from its members and share the learnings with the wider market to enable evidence-based risk-taking to improve affordability in the housing sector iteratively.

CAHF’s broader research activities include the Yearbook (55 country profiles updated annually) and subject-focused research.

Kecia invited the 100 experts on the webinar to consider sharing data generated by each one of them in a way that will not compromise any party’s commercial interests but builds and raises the baseline of information that we have together, to improve our investment making decisions and housing outcomes.

CAHF did a brief live demonstration of a Knowledge Portal just developed with FSD Kenya funding, collating the vast literature that was studied and fed into FSD’s affordable housing network strategy. The portal currently hosts about 160 documents and is organised in eight categories aligned with the Market Shaping Indicators, easily searchable using a Tableau Dashboard. The portal provides a summary of why each document is relevant, and directs the user to the original website where the document is hosted. The portal is designed to easily integrate any other documents shared by stakeholders, and this is highly encouraged to keep the portal current and meaningful.

CAHF full presentation

Ben Atkison, Research Evidence and Learning Manager at Reall [minutes 51 to 1:10 of recording] discussed why overcoming barriers to data is critical for investment in affordable housing. Reall is a market innovator and investor in affordable housing in Asia and Africa. Reall is committed to documenting the local experts’ journey to demonstrate the feasibility for climate smart, affordable housing and promote a more effective housing value chain from development to off take.

Reall launched its Data Dashboard in 2020 with the aim of making data from Reall funded projects publicly available. There are currently over a 100 projects on this dashboard showcasing data on housing typology and pricing, local services, project financing, client demographics and impact evaluation. Ben undertook a live demonstration of the Market Shaping Indicators collected as part of the Data Agenda for Africa in partnership with CAHF and 71point4.  The data can be reviewed by country, individual project and also a comparative evaluation of each MSI across the different countries in which Reall works. All currency indicators can be toggled between local currency and USD. Ben emphasised that this is a continual work in progress and there is much to do (Kenya for example has 65 of the 117 MSIs populated). Definitions of the data, and a guide / terms of use of the data are clearly provided. The data can be easily downloaded via a csv or excel file. Ben also showcased their project level data, zooming in the Semba Motto project delivered with NACHU. An official launch of the Data Agenda for Africa, including the MSI work, was held on 15th July, a recording of which will be available on CAHF’s website – .

Ben and Kecia emphasized the vast range of custodians of data from international actors, regulatory and government agencies, and private institutions and industry bodies, that have been leveraged for the MSI work. As part of the Data Audit, they categorized the data into 4 categories (i) data that exists but needs to be unlocked, (ii) data that needs to be better disseminated (iii) data that needs to be disaggregated from a bigger picture into more granular form and (iv) data that could be further gathered. There is an immediate opportunity to work with governments to streamline the access to all the data that is currently available, and support its collection where there are gaps with for example, KNBS in Kenya. An eventual goal could be a digital dashboard showcasing all housing related data for the country. 

The webinar showcased the momentum and deepening collaboration in the affordable housing sector in Kenya. In closing, Seeta highlighted a statistic from a recent Habitat for Humanity Terwilliger Centre for Innovation in Shelter Report Cornerstone of Recovery dated October 2020, which calculated that affordable housing could contribute as much as 14 – 17% of Kenya’s GDP if all the informal activity around housing was accounted, and therefore, investment in affordable housing is a very important stimulus for economic growth post Covid. 

The FSD team also apologies to any stakeholder who was unable to attend the session due to technical issues we experienced, and wish to assure all that these have been resolved – so stay tuned for our next engaging webinar. As always, we welcome all comments and contributions.

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