Housing bill sails through crucial stage

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024 04:30 | By
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National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah. PHOTO(@kimaniichungwah)X

The controversial Affordable Housing Bill will now go to the final stage after the pro-government side voted for it.

The pro-government side carried the day after a vote polling 141 votes against 58 for the minority side.

The minority side led by MPs Otiende Amollo (Rarieda), John Mbadi (Nominated) and Wilberforce Oundo (Funyula) protested the bill had many gaps that needed to be addressed before it is subjected to the Third Reading.

Mbadi said the bill was exposing Kenyans including mama mboga who were promised the levy will only affect those who are salaried and have a payslip to unnecessary harassment by the taxman.

“To impose this levy on people who don’t have a salary is going to be a nightmare,” said Mbadi. “There is something that worries me about this bill. In an effort by the Executive to correct what was said in court, they are creating a bigger problem to the people of Kenya.”

Amollo said the National government is endeavouring to push for the passage of the bill, and no matter how well-intentioned the government may be, housing remains a County government function.

Chairman of the Finance and Planning Committee Kimani Kuria said one of the amendments his team will move is a provision that all the transfer of land from public to private to follow the Lands Act.

“On the issue of penalties, in terms of the time when the levies are levied to the relevant authority, we will also be promoting an amendment so that they are in line with the Tax Procedures Act so that the fines and penalties that shall accrue as a result of late disbursement will follow the rest of the taxes as enshrined in the Procedures Act,” Kuria explained.

National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah commended the courts for nullifying the Finance Act Housing Levy, asserting that the decision had paved the way for the new legislation that will allow improved revenue collection.

Informal sector employees

Ichung’wah outlined how the bill’s provisions establish a mechanism to ensure contributions to the housing fund from both formal and informal sector taxpayers.

He said the Joint Committee will be introducing an amendment to allow the use of the provision of the Tax Procedures Act 2015 to apply also for this levy.

Following the High Court’s ruling, which deemed the levy discriminatory for targeting only salaried Kenyans while excluding those in the informal sector, Ichung’wah hailed the ruling for enabling the government to enhance revenue generation.

The Kikuyu MP said he anticipated numerous projects nationwide upon the bill’s enactment.

“We are now poised to kick-start projects across all our 47 counties and 270 constituencies. I urge colleagues to propose suitable locations for housing projects,” he said.

 He added: “I am a beneficiary of the housing project in Kikuyu and I can tell you in a project where we are doing about 755 houses between us and our neighbours, Kabete constituency, we are projecting to employ close to 2,000 people on site directly and many others indirectly.”

Although the Affordable Housing Bill, initially presented as a National Assembly Bill, must undergo Senate scrutiny for consensus, this process is expected to prolong the timelines for implementing the housing fund deductions.

There have been concerns over whether the Affordable Housing Programme is under the National Government or the county governments since the housing policy and planning fall under the jurisdiction of devolved units.

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi raised concerns about the bill’s characterization, highlighting that housing policy and planning are within the purview of counties according to the Fourth Schedule.

“The house needs clarity on whether it was determined that this Bill falls outside the Senate’s jurisdiction. From my perspective, the bill’s structure impacts counties. Any mischaracterization must be addressed before proceeding,” Wandayi asserted.  National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula directed the Bill be forwarded to the Senate for deliberation, indicating an improper characterisation during the bill’s drafting.

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