An arrangement unique to the coastal region made it possible for some residents to own homes without taking loans or saving for years to buy land.
Those who had portions of land they were not using allowed the landless to construct houses on them then pay monthly rates, depending on the number of houses, in the arrangement.
However, the arrangement, popularly referred to as tenants-at-will, would lead to serious conflicts, as tenants attempted to acquire land on which their houses stood.
Some of the land owners agreed to sell the properties to them but they differed in pricing.
Some tenants offered between Sh500,000 and Sh1.5 million per plot but landlords demanded up to Sh10 million.
Some landlords have threatened to evict the home owners who have vowed to stay put in a decades-long conflict that has been threatening the peace of affected areas.
This is the reason the National Land Commission (NLC) stepped in to help resolve the dispute.
NLC is trying to help landlords and the tenants to agree on the price of property.
It commissioned valuation of the plots whose report, it hopes, will be used to determine prices of the properties.
NLC chairman Muhammad Swazuri is optimistic they will soon find a solution to the dispute.
Apart from Mombasa island, tenants-at-will are common in Kisauni and Likoni as well as Malindi in Kilifi County.
Dr Swazuri, who spoke in Mombasa Town, said valuation of properties started in August last year and was complete.
"After the talks, we hope tenants can be allowed to buy the land where their houses stand. We'll soon bring both sides to the negotiation table and hope to resolve the long-standing disputes,” Swazuri said.
The valuation covered 16 parcels in Mwembe Kuku, Sparki, Sargoi and Bondeni.
More than 20,000 tenants will benefit once a deal is reached.
Some of the land belongs to descendants of the Sultan of Zanzibar, who live abroad. They are managed by agents.
Some of the agreements between landlords and tenants date back to 1924.
While launching valuation of the properties last year, Swazuri said the commission decided to help in determining their values after landlords came up with different prices that stalled negotiations.
Mwembe Kuku Welfare Society chairman Abdullahi Farah was hopeful residents would finally own the land on which their houses stood.
“We have had conflicts with landowners for many years. We hope the prices NLC comes up with will enable us to find a lasting solution to this matter,” said Mr Farah.
Former Kisauni MP and Cabinet minister Karisa Maitha (now deceased), at one point advised the tenants not to pay the monthly rates but the plan failed after the landowners threatened to auction their houses.
Former Lands minister Kivutha Kibwana also tried to resolve the dispute but in vain.
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