Old Nairobi city estates to give way for modern high-end houses

Nairobi residents living in old and dilapidated council estates can look up to decent housing if they live to see completion of the urban renewal housing project to be signed next week.

Detailed plans to redevelop at least seven estates seen by The Standard on Saturday promise “a Nairobi of the 70’s experience” but with modern top-end housing units complete with modern recreational facilities.

The Nairobi of the 70’s had affordable and spacious housing with adequate recreational facilities within the estates, adequate parking, sufficient liquid and solid waste disposal system, fresh water supply and were properly planned to have markets and schools around or within them.

All that was however lost to pressures of increased housing demands, swell of rural migrants seeking better opportunities and incapacity of successive council administrations to put up to demands for services.

Singled out for re-development on a pilot basis from next week are Bachelors/Jevanjee, Ngong Road, Old Ngara, Pangani, Uhuru, New Ngara and Suna Road estates. These estates were built to counter colonial policy which had not factored African’s living in the city.

“Most of these estates were developed long time ago and are therefore in poor conditions. Majority of them are also low rise occupying extensive lands which can be optimised by erecting middle to high rise apartments in line with city planning regulations,” Governor Evans Kidero explains.

Bachelors and Jevanjee estates, located on Quarry Road in Ngara area, were once gorgeous units, the former aptly named for its propensity to attract single and most probably randy men. Now, both estates sitting on approximately 7.56 acres of prime land are shadows of their former selves attracting low income earners. Apart from their buildings being in deplorable state and occupying large portion of land, the access road to the property has been consumed by informal garages and kiosks which need to be tidied up.

Old bungalows

Ngong Road estate has retained most of the features of the 70’s but is a waste of space according to current Nairobi County plans. Located near the Kenya Meteorological Department headquarters, the estate comprises of several old bungalow units sparsely scattered in 46.35 acres of land. The county wants to put up high rise buildings to stop the waste of land and to afford city residents more houses.

Old Ngara is possibly the closest estate to the city centre. It’s located along Musindi Road, behind Equity Bank Ngara branch and north of Nairobi River. Currently, the estate comprises of a main one-bed-roomed block baptised “Fort Jesus” by locals for its fortress and forbearing looks. Fort Jesus is flanked by eight blocks on one side and seven blocks on the other which are an assortment of two and three bed-room units.

At their prime in the 70’s and citing on 3.5 acres of prime land a walking distant from the city centre, the storey buildings must have been the place for hippy Nairobians. But now, the buildings- including Fort Jesus have been condemned by the Kidero administration as “deplorable” and must come down for new ones.

Pangani estate adjacent to Pangani police station has retained some of its old features and could be retained were it not for want of space. Sitting on 4.92 acres of land, the estatecomprises of 12 blocks each with four, two bed-roomed units. Each block has a servant quarter made of four rooms.

The two-storey Uhuru estate comprising of 500 one-bed-room units sits on expansive 65 acres of land in Eastlands. It has been swarmed up by illegal structures. The county government has however singled out 5.2 acres for development of modern high rise buildings.

At the New Ngara estate, the county government wants to put up a high density housing units owing to its proximity to CBD. Currently, it has 17 blocks each comprising of eight houses- a total of 136 units. The same case applies to Suna Road estate off Ngong Road - old and deplorable buildings on 5.2 acres.

“We cannot wait any more to provide the housing needs of Nairobi residents yet we cannot afford it on our own. That is why we settled for a joint venture partnership arrangement,” Kidero adds.

Slum dwellers

According to recent statistics, 3.14 million people live in Nairobi County with an area of 684 square kilometers. Over 60 per cent of them reside in slums. On average, five to seven of them share a room. In general, 84 per cent of Kenyans rent houses, only 16 per cent own homes.

The total number of housing units owned by the county government which are set to be re-developed in the overall renewal plan is 17,000. Over 100,000 new units are expected to be produced through the comprehensive renewal plan to take care of 650,000 residents.

Yesterday, Ngara ward MCA Chege Mwaura complained that the project was starting without enough guarantees and clarities on some issues residents in his area had raised.

“We are not opposed to the project, but so many things remain unclear. We do not know how long its going to take, whether residents will be moved and to where,” Chege said.