Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Towards holistic solutions to Nairobi’s affordable housing crisis

Baraka Mwau, Alice Sverdlik, Jack Makau

International Institute for Environment and Development



Standing alongside Nairobi’s well-known slums are high-rise tenements and other “informal” housing types that contravene planning and building regulations. The city is undergoing a shift from low-density shacks to multi-storey tenements, and approximately 70 per cent of Nairobi residents live in single-room units in informal settlements and tenements. This market can be highly profitable: property investors can realize returns up to four times greater compared to selling formal mid- and high-income housing. However, informal rental properties are typically overcrowded with poor services and infrastructure. Despite the president’s recent promise to prioritize affordable housing, there are still major shortfalls in government capacity and a longstanding failure to plan for low-income shelter. This brief will discuss Nairobi’s informal submarkets and barriers to affordable shelter, while identifying ways to foster more inclusive housing strategies.

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