It is the first time since 2001 that the government has reviewed the rents, which are automatically deducted from their salaries.
The rise will hit lower-income earners hard even as they complain about poor living conditions in the houses, some of them having been built by the colonial government.
Housing and Urban Development Principal Secretary Charles Hinga communicated the review to his National Treasury counterpart Julius Muia in a January 18 letter, which was copied to Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki, other principal secretaries, Public Service Commission secretary Simon Rotich, State House Comptroller Kinuthia Mbugua and Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu, among other offices.
The department collects rent from government residential houses, and manages and maintain the housing stock.
“…effective April 1, 2022, rent from all government residential houses will be increased by 10 per cent of the prevailing rates,” he said.
“This review will still be way below the market rate since government residential houses are part of employer-assisted housing for civil servants.”
The review, he said, was long overdue as civil servants had been given periodic increases in house allowances without a corresponding rise in rents to reflect market prices, denying the government much-needed revenue.
“It is important to note that there have been several reviews on house allowance for civil servants since 2001, but rent applicable to houses they occupy has remained largely the same over the period,” the PS said.
“The last rental assessment was carried out in … 2001 and there [have] been piecemeal reviews to bring on board newly completed projects. These various reviews have not affected the old stock of government houses.”
But civil servants who spoke to the Nation said the increase smacked of mischief, coming just four months to the August 9 General Election as campaigns that require funding in billions of shillings start.
They said their houses are in deplorable conditions as no fittings or repairs had been done in a long time, adding that the rents should be reduced instead. Those who pay Sh10,000 monthly, for instance, will now pay Sh11,000.
Expected monthly rent
“We have stayed in these houses for decades but no repairs have ever been done, leaving us with leaking roofs,” said one worker, who did not want to be named. He termed the increase “unfair”.
Some senior civil servants, however, pay as low as Sh30,000 monthly for four-bedroom government apartments in Kilimani, Karen and other upscale neighbourhoods, way below their actual market rates.
The increase comes months after the Auditor-General raised the alarm over low collections, with nearly half of civil servants not paying as required. In a report, Ms Gathungu said the 2019/20 collection was Sh724.3 million, less than half of the potential Sh1.5 billion when the houses are fully occupied.
“The Department failed to put in place measures to ensure all rent income due was collected,” the report said, showing that the government owns 56,892 houses across all counties, with an expected monthly rent of Sh127.04 million, which translates into Sh1.52 billion annually.
Ms Gathungu said the government was losing revenue by applying outdated rates and the register of houses did not contain key information such as the dates of occupancy and vacancy, details of occupants, and reasons for non-occupancy.
“Failure to maintain a comprehensive register makes it difficult to keep track of government houses and tenants in relation to occupancy, vacancies, rent arrears and respective maintenance costs,” Ms Gathungu said in the report.