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No respite for the poor in Kenya with rent rise for small houses

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Rent for small houses, in particular one roomed, in Kenya has accelerated faster in the last one year heaping pressure on low income earners.

The rent has been on the rise as demand outpaces supply at a higher level compared to the other segments that include two, three and four bedrooms.

In the East African nation’s capital Nairobi, the poor are paying for single rooms at an average of 50 U.S. dollars, but charges range from 40 dollars to 70 dollars, depending on the residential area.

On the other hand, for one-bedroom houses, rent currently stands at between 80 dollars and 150 dollars.

The cost for two and three bedroom houses averages 170 dollars to 280 dollars, thanks to the increased building of apartments in various suburbs across the capital leading to saturation of houses at the level.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) puts the national average rent for one room houses at 42 dollars, with figure having risen in the last one year by 5 percent.

The rise has been so significant that it is among the key drivers of inflation among the poor in East Africa’s biggest economy.

Most of those living in one room houses in the capital Nairobi, and even in other parts of the country, are low-income earners, many of them doing casual work or are unemployed.

Their incomes range from zero to 4 dollars a day, and in Nairobi they include masons, touts, hawkers, house helps, cart pullers and security guards.

"On a good day I normally return home with 4 dollars but sometimes I only get a dollar, especially during public holidays or at the weekends when there are fewer people travelling," said Nahashon Ochami, a tout in Kayole in the east of Nairobi.

His work is to call for passengers to board vehicles heading to the city center and for that job he earns 0.20 dollars per vehicle during off-peak hours and 0.50 dollars at peak hours.

"The charges would have been better but the thing is we are many of us.

"Sometimes up to four people serve one vehicle which means when the conductor gives us a dollar, we share equally," said Ochami, who lives in a single room house paying 40 dollars a month.

His landlord increased the rent from 36 dollars starting this year, putting pressure on Ochami, a father of two, with his plight capturing those of over half of the city’s four million people.

Inflation across the East African nation averaged 4.46 percent in February, down from 4.58 percent in January, according to KNBS.

However, for the lower income earners, it stood at nearly six per cent, for the middle five per cent and upper four per cent.

Rent was among items that went up during the period at the bottom segment as the cost of various food items and electricity declined.

The rising rent, therefore, contributed to the surge in inflation among the poor.

Analysts blamed the rising rent at the bottom housing market to stifled incomes among the general population.

"There has been a shrinkage of the economy in the last months partly due to elections which saw earnings for people decline...

"With decline in incomes, people have to adjust their lives by including moving to smaller houses, the reason why rent is rising," said Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer.



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