Yusuf Masibo The county government of Bungoma\u00a0 has begun construction of affordable housing units to address an acute shortage of housing in the region.\u00a0 Another 84 old homes previously owned by the defunct Bungoma Municipal Council are already undergoing renovation. The project aims at addressing the perennial housing problem in different parts of the county, especially among poor residents. The County Executive Committee member in charge of Land, Housing and Urban planning Bramuel Murgor says: \u201cWe have already built four houses and we are going to build quality habitable permanent units for the poor in every ward,\u201d said Murgor. Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati\u2019s government has set aside 10 acres of land in the town for the same project that will reflect in all urban areas within the county. Game changer Wangamati said his administration had prioritised urban development because towns were engines of growth. \u201cTowns within the county serve as administrative and security provision centres, as well as social and cultural delivery points,\u201d he noted. According to Murgor, there is an urgent need to address the mushrooming of informal settlements as they affect planning. \u201cThe Bungoma county housing project will be a game-changer,\u201d he said. In addition to solid waste management systems, identified towns will also benefit from the establishment of bus parks and fire-fighting equipment before 2027. At the same time, the county director for housing, Christine Simiyu described the housing project as a noble concept that would spur economic growth. \u201cWith rural-urban migration on the rise, demand for houses will continue to rise,\u201d she noted. The programme aims to assist the county government to establish and strengthen urban institutions to deliver improved infrastructure and services for residents with the support of the World Bank. The homes will benefit middle-level income earners, while social housing in every ward are for the low income earners. \u201cThe social scheme houses are a continuous project initiated by the governor to benefit the low-income earners who cannot even afford quality but affordable housing,\u201d she said. However, Bungoma town businessman Ramin Shah says the town lacks a proper housing scheme, forcing most investors to commute from other counties. \u201cThe only decent estate here is that of former Nzoia Sugar Company workers constructed under their pension scheme, but the homes are all fully occupied,\u201d he said. Bungoma county has 1,670,570 people according to the 2019 census report released recently. There has been increased movement of goods and people from Bungoma\u2019s rural areas to its urban centres, putting the shopping centres and their facilities under pressure due to overuse and congestion. The CEC said that after the release of the census report, more trading centres within Bungoma qualify to become towns and municipalities based on population thresholds. Plans to upgrade the towns to municipalities and improvement of infrastructure is part of Wangamati\u2019s strategy to prepare Bungoma to attain a city status in the near future. Seed money \u201cBungoma is preparing for city status based on population and infrastructural development, which includes the Sh1.3 billion, 6.5km dual carriageway from Kanduyi to Musikoma in the town and the upgrading of Chwele and Webuye town municipalities,\u201d Murgor added. The county government recently received Sh1 billion seed money from the UK government to improve and develop infrastructure within the established municipalities. The money will also be used to decongest Bungoma town\u2019s Central Business District. The grant could be increased to Sh5 billion once the county handles the seed money prudently. The Sustainable Urban Economic Development (SUED) grant follows a winning proposal to improve Bungoma\u2019s urban infrastructure to attract investments. Murgor said land grabbing and construction of illegal buildings were the main challenges facing development of housing scheme in the county. However, the county has invested in a Geographical Information System Laboratory in a bid to control rampant development of illegal infrastructures. \u201cBy end of this year, people will access maps in Bungoma instead of going all the way to Kakamega 60kms away,\u201d he said. Construction of new roads and a dual carriage way will open the way for proper drainage systems in Bungoma and Kimilili towns. \u201cProper drainage system has been a nightmare in the two towns, but thanks to the World Bank, funding is available to enable us construct roads and open up the drainage system\u2019\u2019 said Murgor.