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Shipping Containers for Affordable Housing in Kenya

Alexander is a professional engineer who specializes in the construction of affordable houses and structures using recycled materials.

Affordable 20 feet container home

Affordable 20 feet container home

It is no lie that affordable housing in Kenya has become a national issue with a standing deficit of 250,000 units. Real estate has grown more in the upscale market, leaving huge gaps for low-cost houses. A large population of Kenyans now wonder, "What next?"

The government came up with the "big four" agenda that was subsequently released once they were signed into office. A huge chunk of the agenda has to deal with affordable housing and the plan put forth aid for this disaster.

The Big Four Agenda

His Excellency the President, Uhuru Kenyatta, developed an agenda built on four pillars:

  1. Manufacturing
  2. Universal healthcare
  3. Food security
  4. Affordable housing

During his second and last term, he assured that his primary focus and legacy lies with this agenda.

With such great purpose and devotion, the government then allocated 6.5 billion Kenyan shillings, roughly $650 million, to fully support this branch of the agenda. As mandated by the constitution in chapter four under article 43, sub-article 1, it states, “Every person has the right to accessible and adequate housing, and to reasonable standards of sanitation”.

The government is key to providing every one of its citizens with much-needed shelter. The agenda laid out plans to build over 500,000 houses across the country to adequately supply the evenly growing demand.

The government hopes for a working strategy with manufacturers in building materials, the private sector, financial institutions and partnerships to make this agenda turn to reality. They have established a fund called the National Social Housing Development Fund with the help of cooperatives to improve the economic status is the housing sector. But is it enough?

Inside a shipping container home.

Inside a shipping container home.

Resources Required to Achieve Affordable Housing

This plan to achieve adequate and affordable housing for Kenyans needs a strong back when it comes to the resources needed. Below are some of them.

Technological Innovation

Change is hard to accept when you don't know what you are changing towards. There needs to be a shift of the mind in Kenyans so that people can readily accept low-cost housing as a possibility for all.

Innovative construction materials are revolving over the years, but people are still stuck on the tradition of brick and mortar home. The aggregate effect of this is that this agenda may stagnate as people await a modification.

Land Optimization

The housing pillar under the big four agenda is steadily taking shape as the president reserves over 7,500 acres of land in 59 towns solely for this purpose. But even with that, this resource remains scarce as people in urban cities pay high prices to get land that pays them no dividends whatsoever.

With only 59 towns receiving ready land for housing, the remaining areas remain wanting for such opportunities and consequently creating a strain towards the realization of the agenda.

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Ancillary Infrastructure

Low-cost houses have the need to have efficient transport systems. With already high costs of land, there shouldn't be strain from the transport sector as well.

Remote areas need to adopt a similar technique as that in the Netherlands where their transport system has really brought their remote sections closer to the city by use of trains, trams, bus stations, and metro stations. This will allow for people to easily settle for further located areas from the central business district. Such towns could be Kiserian, Kitengela, Ngong, and Ruiru among others.

The government will have to improve its strategy to enhance greater collaboration and infrastructure development to encourage this branch of affordable housing.

Supply and Demand

With the high demand for affordable housing rising every day with the ever-growing population, the gap between supply and demand grows wider. As of now, there is a standing deficit of over 250,000 units.

That is just the amount yet to be achieved with an additional 500,000 housing units to be added over the five-year period. One and a half year into the bracket, no much progress has been made. There is still a yet to be established by the National Social Housing Development Fund. Which begs the question, what can we do about affordable housing in Kenya?

Privatized Solutions

Many companies such as Ishibox Limited seek to aid the government to reach their agenda on affordable housing in a fast manner. But with other issues crippling the economy, private companies are looking for other solutions to fill this gap that grows wider day by day.

Innovative companies in Kenya have created solutions using shipping containers. Shipping container homes have revolutionized the world of housing for various reasons. Frankly, they should be the ultimate solution to the housing issue faced by numerous Kenyans.

Affordable housing made out of shipping containers

Affordable housing made out of shipping containers

Will Shipping Containers Adequately Provide Affordable Housing?

It's quite difficult to conclude, but time is not a factor on our side. The economy is skyrocketing with a clear focus on high-end urban areas. Other publicized communities away from the city are left abandoned.

This is why shipping containers are a plausible solution for all. Accessible even in remote areas, they will provide much-needed availability and security. Shipping containers can provide low-cost housing with a great turnaround time to effectively cover the deficit being experienced in the housing sector.

Affordable shipping container home

Affordable shipping container home

What Qualities Do Shipping Container Homes Have?

Privatized solutions are looking for ways that can actually prove to be the true answer to this national disaster. While shipping containers have not been fully accepted by many in the country, they could actually be the saving grace. Below is a comprehensive argument supporting the claim that in fact, these containers could provide for adequate and low-cost housing solutions.


Kicking off on a high note, the reason as to why shipping container homes are known to be low cost is the price tag associated with such homes. An ordinary shipping container home could cost a quarter the price of a brick and mortar house.

That only caters for building materials such as cement, ballast, interior fixtures and fittings. With the 6.5 billion shillings ($65 million) set aside for housing development, it can adequately provide the 500,000 units plus more. With high value over everything in this economy, it would only be right to save as much as you can, when you can.


Shipping containers undergo modification every now and then to change their appearance from a rusty container to a beautiful home. This means that instead of melting the containers or disposing of them, they are recycled and reused.

With the rate of deforestation and global warming experienced in the country and globally, the best solution has to be something that supports the environment. Re-purposing of these containers allows for users to maintain the climatic conditions with no pollution.

Traditional housing methods require certain materials that are dependent on the environment. To compete with the increasing demand, there will need to cut down trees for wood and other activities that could damage the environment.

Readily Available

Availability has become scarce these days. In traditional housing methods. Much planning is required. This is to cater for all the materials and tools to be used during construction. Hence, why the housing plan is looking to partner with building and construction companies.

On the other hand, with cargo containers, there are two advantages. The market for shipping containers is wide and ready. This is greatly attributed to the rates of trading at the ports with export and import containers.

Shipping containers also provide a ready market in that, their modifications materials are fast and easy to acquire. Their dependency on other industries is low.

Fast Turnaround Time

Shipping containers home can also be shaped into different home designs. With the use of a cheap house plan, such homes can have a turnaround time of less than a month, maybe more in the case of a two bedroom or more.

As they stack containers and weld together with insulation, the time factor may vary, but one can be assured to have a conducive living environment in less than two months even for a complicated home.

As for brick and motor houses, the factor of time could discourage the plan causing people to lose the hope of affordable housing. As of now, the country has a standing housing deficit. Including the other units described in the plan.


Depending on the area of living, shipping containers can be modified to your liking. Their standard shape and size are quite easy to manipulate, therefore allowing it to be easy maneuver with the design to come up with something unique for someone.

Remote areas may need several other features including water capturing unit when it rains. The homes can easily be placed with gutters and a tank for storage. Solar panels can also be placed for lighting.

The ideas are limitless and easy to deliver in a short time giving it a great advantage over the traditional housing methods. While they too can be modified to look as you like, time and money constraints can force them to settle for a basic design that may not be fully satisfying.


A stable home in terms of rigidity is very important for every Kenyan. While people prefer traditional housing methods that include a strong foundation to erect a stable home. Shipping container homes can as well produce similar results.

They are said to withstand the weight of over 70,000 pounds. With a body made of steel. Not just any steel, corten steel. They are set to provide the perfect rigidity for your home.

They are also resistant to weather conditions. Once the home has been secured in proper foundation stands, the home can withstand climatic changes such as heavy rains, earthquakes, and tremors.


Imagine a home that allows you to carry it along with you as you move. Building a home from a house takes to heart. You will not have to look for other housing options once you settle for a shipping container home.

Regardless of what you add to you're home, where you are ready for your move, you can pack it up and transport it from the city to a rural environment. It is easily adaptable.

As for traditional housing, one will have to pack up their things and leave the structure where it is. This will be stressful as you have to search for a new place to call home a d have to conform to the new housing structure.

Other benefits of these homes over the brick houses are that you can modify a home from off-site. Where the housing materials are, you can modify the home and once it's complete. It's just transported. This means one does not have to wait for the delivery if either material to begin or finish home modification.

Safe and Secure

The economic status of the country is very wanting. While the rates of crime increase daily. People struggle with robbery, theft, shootings, and violence every day. Young people are terrorizing people in homes creating a non-conducive environment for people to live in.

Container homes can provide the security of any other housing method. They are strong to withstand forceful entry and they can also be modified for extra security. Just like any other home. While we cannot conclude that they provide the ultimate security from crime, they can just as much protection you and your family as other options can.


Land, among other resources, is causing a strain and slowing the pace on the realization of the agenda four pillars on affordable housing. What the government needs to realize is that they need to embrace other privatized solutions like shipping container homes.

Their vast benefits and low-cost production could be the best and most powerful solution to this issue. Companies like Ishibox limited have embraced this new reality, and so should the government.

Can Shipping Containers Provide Affordable Housing?

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2019 Alexander Okelo

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