The government of Kenya, confronted with a potential legal impediment, has presented the Affordable Housing Bill 2023 in Parliament, seeking to cement the contentious housing levy into law subsequent to its recent constitutional invalidation by the High Court.
On Thursday, Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah laid out the bill in response to the court's recent declaration, deeming the 1.5 per cent housing levy on employees' gross salary as discriminatory and a transgression of constitutional principles.
The court's pronouncement cast a shadow over President William Ruto's housing program.
In a substantial setback for the government, a three-judge bench proclaimed the housing levy unconstitutional, citing its lack of a clear legal foundation.
The judges accused the government of neglecting to furnish a rational explanation for the levy's imposition, underscoring the imperative for a legal framework, and emphasizing that legislative enactments must be substantiated by a logical rationale.
"The principle of this Bill is to provide a legal framework for the establishment of the Affordable Housing Fund, access to affordable housing and, in particular, give effect...on the right to accessible and adequate housing," articulated Ichung’wah in the memorandum accompanying the Bill.
The court's decision had engendered the prospect of the levy's revocation, prompting public consternation regarding its ramifications for the operational costs of businesses.
However, the judges opted to stay the ruling, affording the government the latitude to persist in collecting the levy until January 10, 2024, when a conclusive determination will be rendered.
The Affordable Housing Bill 2023 endeavours to redress the legal lacunae identified by the court, striving to institute a robust legal foundation for the Affordable Housing Fund.
Its introduction assumes critical importance, arriving at a juncture where the government is committed to ensuring the seamless continuation of its housing program amid legal challenges.
The conclusion of this legislative proposition will wield a substantial influence on the future trajectory of the housing levy, with stakeholders vigilantly monitoring the parliamentary deliberations and subsequent developments within the legal realm.
The government's rejoinder to the court's apprehensions will wield a vital role in set forth the destiny of the housing levy and the prosperity of President Ruto's housing initiative.