Atwoli Takes Stand on Housing Levy Amid Legal Battle

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Atwoli Takes Stand on Housing Levy Amid Legal Battle

In an unexpected development, Francis Atwoli, the Secretary-General of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU-K), has openly endorsed President William Ruto’s Affordable Housing Project.

The project, which entered its operational phase in March, entails deducting 1.5 percent from workers’ gross salaries with the goal of constructing half a million housing units by 2027.

This initiative marks a significant step towards alleviating Kenya’s severe housing shortage.

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Atwoli’s endorsement surfaced during an interview on Jeff Koinange Live, Citizen TV, on Wednesday, April 10. He revealed that a meeting between President Ruto and the country’s labor secretary generals preceded the project’s rollout.

Atwoli stated that they had requested President Ruto to elucidate the details during Labour Day, resulting in a meeting at State House where he engaged with all the general secretaries.

Despite Atwoli’s contentious reputation, he staunchly defended the housing levy, emphasizing the importance of labor organizations’ participation in the preliminary discussions and the consideration of their input for the initiative’s continuity.

His position serves as a reassurance to many workers who have voiced concerns regarding the new deduction.

Atwoli acknowledged the diversity of opinions surrounding such a significant policy shift and highlighted the potential resistance or alternative perspectives that may arise.

Additionally, Atwoli emphasized the urgent need to eradicate slums as the driving force behind the levy.

He cited examples from countries like Algeria and stressed the necessity of a comprehensive master plan, underscoring the importance of representation on the project board.

However, legal disputes currently entangle President Ruto’s Affordable Housing Plan. Twenty-two senators, led by Senator Okiya Omtatah, have challenged the project’s legality.

The controversy revolves around the appointment of the Commissioner General of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) as the levy’s collector, a move perceived to exceed the Commissioner-General’s statutory duties.

On April 9, Busia Senator and activist Omtatah spearheaded the legal petition, which aimed to completely invalidate the project.

The argument rests on the contention that the Commissioner-General’s role traditionally does not encompass the collection of such levies, which is perceived to be within the broader scope of KRA’s responsibilities.

Despite these legal hurdles, Atwoli views the current situation as typical “teething problems” for a project of this magnitude. He suggests that initial resistance and challenges are typical of any ambitious national endeavor.

The Affordable Housing Bill 2023, endorsed into law by President Ruto on March 19, not only reinstates the controversial housing levy deductions but also extends their application to the informal sector.

This legislative adjustment aligns with a previous High Court ruling that deemed its precursor unconstitutional.

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Atwoli Takes Stand on Housing Levy Amid Legal Battle

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