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A lobby in Kisumu has demanded prudent utilisation of housing tax to build decent and affordable housing for residents in the informal settlements in the country.

Grassroot Trust for community organisation coordinator Lawrence Apiyo said residents in slums deserve decent housing units according to the United Nations Habitat General Assembly’s decision to prioritise housing.

As the world marks Habitat Day, he said the right to adequate housing is a human right recognised in international human rights law, as part of the right to an adequate standard of living which the government must work towards realising.

Apiyo proposed that the housing tax should be revisited to ensure proper structures are put in place for the effective implementation of the government’s affordable housing agenda.

“We want the government to focus more on the low-income category of society in building adequate affordable housing in the country,” Apiyo said.

He said the right to adequate housing contains entitlements that include security of tenure, housing, land and property restitution, equal and non-discriminatory access to adequate housing.

The public, he said, should be fully engaged in participation on the housing-related processes and decision-making at the national and community levels.

The coordinator wants the government to consider establishing an independent housing financing entity to handle the implementation of the housing project.

Besides the financing entity, Apiyo has also demanded an end to all forms of evictions in the country. “Estate renewals like Makasembo, Buxton and Ngara should benefit the residents in those places. There should be a binding memorandum of understanding which is inclusive,” he said.

The planning of unplanned settlements, he said, should be participatory from the start to the end. He added that public land released for housing must not end up being privatised.

He welcomed the recent United Nations Habitat General Assembly decision to prioritise housing. The second United Nations Habitat Assembly adopted a historical resolution on “Affordable Housing for All”.

The member states agreed to renew their call to prioritise adequate housing and view housing as a human right for the first time since 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.

“Delegates of the Assembly recognised that the global housing crisis affects all and is present in all regions of the world,” said the Executive Director of UN-Habitat Maimunah Mohd Sharif.

He said almost all countries are struggling to ensure their citizens have access to affordable and adequate housing.

On the stalled Anderson affordable housing, he called on the Laptrust and Kisumu county government to expedite the construction of the project which saw residents displaced.

Apiyo however laughed off President William Ruto’s remarks that Kibra will be an estate in the next 10 years, terming it impracticable.

Globally, he said 1.6 billion people continue to live in inadequate shelter.

We must act now to create a better urban future for them, Apiyo said.

by MAURICE ALAL Correspondent, Nyanza Region