Lately, I have been thinking a lot along the lines of students’ accommodation. What do you make of such as a parent, guardian or still the student?

Students accommodation notice in their admission letter
Students accommodation notice in their admission letter

The above is a snippet of a university’s 2020 admission letter. From here the majority of the students who miss out on the limited slots settle on rental housing or private hostels near the university.

Africa has a youthful population. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to about 90 million people aged between 20-24yrs and it’s expected double in the next 30 years. It is estimated that 60% of that population will be ready to enroll to universities by 2030. However, only less than 10% of the youth in sub-Saharan Africa are enrolled in tertiary institutions due to the scarcity of higher education institutions. This is not to say the enrollment has not been growing. There has been unprecedented growth -170%  between 1999-2012  from 3.53 to 9.54 million to students.


According to the world bank, Kenya’s university enrollment has grown by 27% since 1985. The system has been under strain to accommodate the growing demand. Overcrowding extends to students’ accommodation which consequently affects students’ well-being. According to the Ministry of Education, available student housing in Kenya stands at 300,000 against a university enrollment of 520,900 as at 2018, excluding technical colleges.

Status of Students Housing

In Kenya, the situation was not that dire until 2012 when universities were ordered to take double intake. This kind of admission would ensure students join varsity as soon as they clear high school instead of waiting for two or three years for admission. It  meant that a university could admit more than its bed capacity.

Quoting from Business Daily at the time(Tuesday, May 21 2013) “the University of Nairobi with a student population of about 57,000 can only accommodate about a fifth or 12,500 learners. Kenyatta University has a bed capacity of 17,000; slightly more than a third of the total 42,000 student population.”

Should a students securing accommodation on campus then there alternative options range from renting, outsourcing a private hostel or an informal arrangement within the campus hostels i.e. pirating. Pirating is an informal arrangement were one student co-habit with another student from a different university. Affordable rent markets for students can be around estates like Ngara, Pangani, Mlango Kubwa, Bahati, Landi  Mawe, Madaraka and others low-income estates.


Universities in Nairobi

Taking a case of Ngara, living conditions aren’t pleasant. Ngara’s rental prices are insane considering it’s a walking distance to the city. A small iron sheet room goes for around $30 per month, while a similar-sized one build of stones ranges from $55-$90 per month. Also, both situations have shared bathroom and toilets where most of the time it’s deplorable.  For better, conditions one can rent out a studio/bedsitter for $140 per month and above or a 1-bdrm for around $200 per month. Further from the city rents become affordable. However, the cost of transport increases significantly since most people commute in peak hours (6 am-10 am and 5-8 pm). Housing in the university hostel can range from $65-$120 per semester (inclusive of electricity and water and WI-FI). On campus accommodation is most preferred as its safer and cheaper !Therefore ,offering the learner conducive environment.

Students aren’t exempted from the rental market rules and regulations. Failure to adhering to the latter they risk fines and or, cut off utilities, inability to access your house or evictions.

Emerging Trends in Students Accommodation

According to Cytton Investment, student accommodations accounts for 40% of the affordable housing deficit. The deficit stands at 200,000 units annually and an accumulated deficit of over 2 million units. Through several government plans, there have been attempts to construct hostels in Moi, Embu and South Eastern Kenya (SEKU) universities. However, a concrete and innovative plan to solve the housing crisis seems to be absent.

Above all student living is becoming a lucrative investment in the real estate sector. Some of the well-known private housing solutions for students are Qwetu,/Qejani, Kafoca and Parallelfour. However, they may not be as pocket friendly for most students.

Qwetu living providing innovative solutions to students accommodation
Qwetu Living

The partnership between governments (central and county), Higher Education Loans Boards and landlords can be a start in solving the housing challenges.


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