The Kenyan government is looking to blockchain technology to make the production and distribution of cheaper housing fairer and more cost efficient, according to two October 16 articles in Kenyan news outlet The Star.
Discussing Kenya's dire shortage of affordable housing, the country's principal secretary of housing and urban development, Charles Hinga, stated, "Kenyans have lost trust in what the government does especially with housing and previous fiscal wastefulness of capital-intensive projects." Now, it seems, blockchain might help address both the issue of trust and the lack of affordable housing.
Some details about the funding and scope of this project were detailed in The Star, but there is a lot of information not yet available. The article states that the government seeks to build 500,000 project homes by 2022, and that these homes will ostensibly go to individuals who make less than the country's salary threshold for affordable housing, which is currently set at 100,000 shillings (roughly $992).
The project will be paid for by the citizens of Kenya who, under the Finance Act of 2018, are required to contribute 1.5 percent of their base salaries, which will be matched by their employers starting in January of 2019.
However, those who have a salary exceeding 100,000 Kenyan shillings (and therefore now qualify to receive public housing) will reportedly have the opportunity to receive a refund on their contributions after 15 years.
According to The Star's reporting, the Kenyan government will use blockchain technology to "ensure the rightful owners live in government-funded housing projects," which could help alleviate fears of land grabbing and give citizens an immutable record that proves ownership of property.
In addition, blockchain technology will be utilized to manage funds for President Uhuru Kenyatta's affordable housing agenda.
Although this project seems to be legitimate and focus on people in need, there is still reason for individuals to be skeptical. The government has given a lot of information about how funds will be raised and how blockchain technology will be utilized for proof of ownership, but The Star's editor points out that there has been no talk about how the government will distribute these homes once they are built. Additionally, the specifics of the technology and the details about how it will be used are unclear.
The article alludes to comments made by the cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure, housing, and urban development, James Macharia. Macharia has suggested that a lottery system might be the best way to deal with the fact that the need for affordable housing exceeds the amount of housing available.
Kenya is somewhat of a hotbed for blockchain use cases. The country seems to see the technology as a way to improve, or work around, citizens' lack of trust in their government. In May, the government announced plans to explore blockchain technology to manage property rights. In August, the country's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission announced that it hoped to use blockchain to enable secure presidential elections. The country even has a Taskforce on Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence, whose chairman wants the government to "tokenize" the Kenyan economy.