[June 2014] Analyzing Budgets to Assess the Right to Housing—Lessons from Kenya

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Adequate housing includes more than just having four walls and a roof. The right to housing has been reinforced by international conventions, Article 25 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya. However implementing these rights in Kenya has been a major challenge thus far; the government—the primary duty bearer—has done little, and it shows.

It was out of such realization that Hakijamii has been very vocal over the years in its advocacy work on promoting the right to housing. We have focused on policy work as an avenue to realize these rights. For example, we have been the lead civil society organization in drafting the eviction and resettlement bill of 2013 and the national slum upgrading and prevention policy. Both policies advocate for the right to decent housing especially in informal settlements and for guidelines on evictions.

In order to support its calls for reform to the housing sector, Hakijamii analyzed the 2014/2015 national budget. We found that only Kshs.3.07 billion shillings had been allocated for slum upgrading and housing development. This amounts to 0.1% of the total national budget—a paltry amount at best. Further, according to the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development estimates, a total of 150,000 housing units are required annually in urban areas, yet only 35,000 units are supplied. This leaves an annual deficit of 115,000 units. The Ministry further notes that out of 35,000 units supplied, only 6,000 units cater for low and middle income groups. Yet, these groups make the most significant portion of the urban population and contribute most to the urban housing demand. 

Analyzing the national budget is very key to our work on policy reform, as this depicts a true reflection on which sectors the government prioritizes and the ones it completely ignores. Given the funding allocated for slum upgrading is so meager, Hakijamii has petitioned the Parliamentary committee on budget to increase fund allocation to the housing sector.

Hakijamii first started using budget analysis in its advocacy on land reforms (before extending to housing). In the process, we've initiated a discussion that has attracted more and more organizations. This has strengthened our budget analysis work in several ways. First, because Hakijamii has established excellent relationships with individuals working in the Parliamentary Budget Committee, we've found it relatively easy to get information. Second, resource allocation is becoming more central in the national debate. Third, we've formed a national umbrella of organizations. This means we can complement the statistical expertise of our own staff through partnerships with other organizations under the umbrella.

As a human right organization, going to the streets bearing placards and banners to campaign against forced evictions and the right to adequate housing is not sufficient. What is more fruitful is having policies in place, and keeping the government on its toes by having transparent budget information from the housing sector. As a result of integrating budget analysis into our work, we have achieved more strategic media attention and coverage. More community members are integrating budget discussion in their demands, too. And, at the same time, relevant Parliamentary Committees are also beginning to ask more probing questions about the government’s allocations. It would be interesting to discuss the impacts that others have found in integrating budget analysis in their monitoring work.

Nevertheless, analyzing the housing sector budget in Kenya has not been without its challenges. First, the data still remains inadequately disaggregated, hence difficulties in determining whether the neediest are really benefiting. In addition, even when we have compelling data to present, getting effective feedback from the government remains a real challenge, perhaps because of various competing interests. How can we ensure that budget allocations to the sectors we are working in are given consistently adequate attention, given the various competing interests?

A related challenge is that the relationship between civil society and the Parliamentary Budget Committee is still not adequately formalized. Thus, another question for us is how to establish lasting relationship with influential budget committees in Parliament, given their demands (including allowances and per diems!) are quite high at times and we have limited resources for this work. Examples of good practice on this question would be great to hear about.

Pauline Musangi
Working Group(s):