Affordable housing

Understanding the housing conditions of Kenyans from FinAccess data

June 6th, 2023

As part of the FinAccess Deep Dive series, 71point4 Consulting worked with FSD Kenya to update the Livelihoods segmentation developed in 2019 using the latest FinAccess 2021 dataset. The segmentation identifies sixteen mutually exclusive segments of the population aged 16 or older using the main source of income as the starting point[1].  Aside from using the segmentation to better understand the financial portfolios and needs of key segments of interest, the FinAccess dataset can also be used to understand their housing circumstances and needs. The latter is the focus of this presentation.

The segments selected for the housing analysis deep-dive include two rural-based farming segments – organised value chain farmers and mostly food crop farmers, two urban-based segments – urban casual workers[2] and urban micro business owners[3], and three segments with predominantly urban-based workers – small firm owners[4] (61% urban), private formally employed individuals[5] (80% urban) and public sector employees (53% urban).

Comparing the available housing data across these segments clearly highlights the stark difference in tenure type in rural and urban locations. For example, the analysis shows that while 67% of all households in Kenya own the dwellings they currently live in, this is primarily driven by the rural segments who are far more likely to own than rent. The opposite is true for the urban segments. Close to 80% of urban core casual workers, urban micro business owners and private formally employed individuals rent the dwellings they live in.

Dwelling tenure

Figure 1: Dwelling Tenure (FinAccess 2021)

Figure 1: Dwelling Tenure (FinAccess 2021)

Dwelling materials

There are also clear differences in the dwelling conditions of rural versus urban based segments. The rural farming segments are more likely to reside in dwellings made of non-durable wall and floor materials compared to the urban segments. Non-durable floors, also sometimes referred to as ‘dirt floors’ include floors made of dung, earth / sand, unpolished wood planks, palm or bamboo, are of particular concern due to the increased health and hygiene risks they pose to households living in them. These floors cannot be easily cleaned, swept or disinfected and are known to harbour parasites and bacteria[6]. This is the reality for over 743 000 households (55%) in the mostly food crop farming segment.

Figure 2: Dwelling materials (FinAccess 2021)

Figure 2: Dwelling materials (FinAccess 2021)

Access to services

Water and sanitation infrastructure is critically underdeveloped in Kenya in both urban and rural settings. In order to highlight water infrastructure backlogs, we differentiate between piped water sources and other improved water sources, which include borehole water, stored rainwater, protected well and spring water, bottled water and water from vendors. Accordingly, based on FinAccess data, only 35% of households in Kenya have access to piped water for domestic use either in their dwelling, in their yard or plot or via a public tap[7]. While this is higher in urban segments (>50%) many of these urban households are likely to be living in high-rise apartment blocks and the physical difficulty of collecting water from a communal or public tap and carting it up flights of stairs on a regular basis should not be overlooked.

Access to flush sanitation is even lower. Only 18% of households in Kenya have access to flush sanitation, defined as a sanitation system connected to the main sewer, a septic tank or bio-septic / biodigester system (FinAccess 2021). The Census 2019 data puts this figure slightly higher at 28% of households in Kenya. Either way, access to flush sanitation infrastructure in Kenya is a significant challenge. Even among the higher earning segments in the FinAccess analysis, such as the private formally employed segment, a significant number of households use non-flush sanitation as their main method of human waste disposal (197 000 households or 43% of the segment).

Figure 3: Access to services (FinAccess)

Figure 3: Access to services (FinAccess) *See presentation for definition of grouped variables

Inadequate dwelling analysis

To provide a consolidated view on housing condition and need across the different segments, an ‘inadequate dwelling’ analysis was conducted. This analysis defines a household’s dwelling as inadequate if it meets one of the following conditions:

  1. The dwelling type is classified as a semi-permanent, temporary or traditional structure[8]
  2. The dwelling is none of the above (in other words it is a permanent dwelling) BUT it does not have access to flush sanitation
  3. It is a permanent dwelling with access to flush sanitation BUT it is overcrowded (more than 3 individuals per habitable room)

Based on this, close to 80% of all households in Kenya live in dwellings that could be regarded as inadequate and in need of some form of investment. Across the urban segments, the key driver of the inadequacy score is the limited access to flush sanitation, while for the rural segments the semi-permanent nature of the dwellings is a larger contributor (as seen in the two examples provided below).

Figure 4: Inadequate dwelling analysis (FinAccess 2021)

Figure 4: Inadequate dwelling analysis (FinAccess 2021) *See presentation for data on other segments

In summary, FinAccess, while not a housing-focused survey, it offers many useful data points on housing conditions and needs in Kenya.

This analysis showcases the type of data that is available and the insights that can be derived from it, some of which have been included in this blog but we encourage readers to download this presentation for the full analysis.

Future FinAccess surveys may seek to gather additional data on the type of dwelling units people live in (multi storey apartment vs bungalow vs informal / ‘mabati structures’) and information on the type of area the dwelling is in (planned area versus unplanned or informal settlement) to allow for further segmentation.

In addition, for renter households, additional data on the relationship with the landlord may be of interest. For example, is the landlord live-in or absent and do they have a written contract. That said, there are several other datasets that can be used to fill the gaps in the FinAccess dataset including of course the latest 2019 Census, the Kenya Continuous Housing Survey Programme, as well as the 2015 Integrated Household Budget Survey. The benefit FinAccess offers over these surveys is the frequency of survey updates. FinAccess is conducted every 2 – 3 years, and the data is quickly made available for analysis by the public.

Housing conditions of different livelihood segments: A deep-dive into 2021 FinAccess survey with a focus on housing (PDF)


Housing conditions of different livelihood segments - A deep-dive into 2021 FinAccess survey with a focus on housing

[1] Housing conditions of different livelihood segments – A deep-dive into 2021 FinAccess survey with a focus on housing[1] In addition to the main source of income, demographic characteristics and data related to their type and sector of work were used to segment the population.

[2] ‘Core’ refers to the age group of this segment (16 – 55 years old)

[3] Micro business owners defined as individuals who run their own business and who do not have any paid employees

[4] Small firm owners defined as individuals who run their own business and who have 1 – 9 paid employees

[5] Private formally employed individuals defined as those who say they work in the private sector and have a pension scheme (not NSSF)


[7] This aligns with the Census 2019 data

[8] Dwelling type is an observed variable selected by the interviewer when conducting the household interviews. An analysis of the cross-over between ‘dwelling type’ and ‘wall materials’ shows that 94% of ‘permanent’ buildings had walls made of concrete, stone with lime or bricks. The majority of ‘semi-permanent’ or ‘temporary’ buildings had walls made of iron sheets, mud/cow dung, timber, concrete or stone with mud (91% and 89% respectively). All of the ‘traditional’ dwellings had wall materials made of mud/cow dung, grass/reeds, or cane/palm/trunks.



FSD Kenya newsletter

Stay informed with regular updates from FSD Kenya

Subscribe to our mailing list

Our partners