Nairobi — For the second consecutive day, a group of construction workers taking part in affordable housing projects have set up camp outside the Milimani Law Courts to voice their discontent over the court’s decision to suspend the government’s proposed Affordable Housing Levy.
The protesting workers, comprising plumbers, surveyors, electricians, and engineers, argue that the court’s ruling has adversely affected their livelihoods, dealing a blow to thousands of jobs amid raging debate on the surging unemployment numbers among the youth.
On January 25, President Ruto, during a three-day tour of Meru, reported that 130,000 youths had gained employment through the Affordable Housing Scheme.
In response to the workers’ protests on Tuesday, the police used tear gas and apprehended some demonstrators as they waved placards bearing messages such as “We want the affordable housing project back.”
One protester passionately yelled, “This is our livelihood; now we have no jobs,” holding a placard with the slogan “haki yetu” (our rights).
Clad in construction worker attire and brandishing twigs, the demonstrators chanted slogans like “haki yetu” (our rights) as they marched in front of the courthouse.
Their collective demand was clear – they want the government’s housing project to continue as it provides employment opportunities.
A demonstrator emphasized, “Affordable Housing is not just a program. It’s a lifeline for a better quality of life.”
An electrical engineer expressed frustration, stating that the court’s ruling had dashed his hopes of potential work from the government’s housing project.
The High Court had declared the Affordable Housing Levy unconstitutional on November 28, 2023, a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal last week Friday.
Consequently, construction work was suspended at various sites, including Kibra and Ruiru in Nairobi, where the protesters were employed.
Despite the state’s application to suspend the implementation of the High Court judgment, the court ruled against it, asserting that public interest favored awaiting the determination of the intended appeals.
Justices Lydia Achode, John Mativo, and Gatembu Kairu delivered the verdict.
President William Ruto has urged patience from Kenyans, assuring compliance with the court order to regularize the regulations, including adequate public participation, and vowing to appeal.
Public hearings on the affordable housing bill are already underway, scheduled to conclude on Wednesday, with meetings in Nairobi and Mombasa counties.