Partnering to Solve Kenya’s Housing Crisis

Curated Story
Karibu Homes
This article originally appeared on Medium

When Irfan Keshavjee’s family migrated to Kenya from South Africa in the 1950s to escape the rising apartheid regime, they discovered that rampant inequality also dwelled in their new home.

Sixty percent of Nairobi’s urban population lived in slums. Irfan remembers meeting a taxi driver who was thrown out of his home for being unable to pay rent because of a medical bill, and a security guard living in a room the size of a bed with his wife and four children.


Nairobi has long been one of the most expensive cities in Africa for housing. From 2007 to 2015, land prices jumped by 535 percent. Most residents live in unplanned and unserviced neighborhoods, while new property developments focus on upper-class housing. Each year, just two percent of newly built homes target low-income earners (making between USD 147 and 491 per month).

Irfan decided to channel his family’s entrepreneurial spirit towards a solution, laying the foundation to build a new kind of real estate development firm.

Irfan Keshavjee

Ashoka Fellow since Dec 2012

Karibu Homes

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By addressing systemic issues, Karibu Homes will help to spread this affordable housing model across the country. As a member of the Kenya Property Developers Association, they’re working to subsidize developers through tax incentives so developers can safely accept smaller margins on affordable-housing sales.

They’re also working with the World Bank and private-sector institutions to design alternatives to mortgages that would be more accessible to low-income Kenyans, such as rent-to-own structures.

Together, the two organizations are transforming Kenya’s housing market to serve more than the upper class — and showing what can happen when two organizations join forces to innovate for the greater good.