Right to Housing Under the Constitution of Kenya

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The right to housing comprises an intricate part in the realization of one of the most basic needs of a human being, shelter. Everyone has the right to a decent standard of living as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that has attained the status of jus cogens due to its wide acceptance. Essential to the achievement of this standard is access to adequate housing. It has been said that housing fulfills physical needs by providing security and shelter from weather and climate. It fulfills psychological needs by providing a sense of personal space and privacy. It fulfills social needs by providing a gathering area and communal space for the human family, the basic unit of society. It also fulfills economic needs by functioning as a center for commercial production. Due to various factors including insufficient financial and natural resources, population growth, political upheavals, and rural- urban migration, a vast population of Kenyans especially those living in urban areas end up homeless or in informal settlements. Dr. P.L.O Lumumba in his speech during the World Habitat forum in 2004 described the lengths to which people unable to afford adequate housing go to provide shelter to themselves and their families. He said that some of them end up seeking refuge in, “slums areas, squatting in informal settlements, old buses, roadside embankments, cellars, staircases, rooftops, elevator enclosures, cages, cardboard boxes, plastic sheets, aluminum and tin shelter.”

According to a UN Habitat study done in 2008, 60-80 percent of residents in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, live in informal settlements. In fact, the same study shows that while 60 percent of Nairobi’s populations live in informal settlements, their homes occupy only 5 percent of the total land area of the city and its environs. Although right to adequate shelter is a human right, this does not...