When Sh4 could deny you access to a plot in Nairobi's South C

Across section of Nairobi’s South C’ area in this skyline photo taken on September 27, 2016. [File, Standard]

Today, if you dropped Sh4 on a dusty Nairobi street, chances are few passersby will pay any attention to it. With Sh4 you cannot afford even afford a sweet or a box of matches.

Half a century ago, this amount was enough for a developer to access a plot in South C estate, Nairobi. When the government invited bids from interested Kenyans willing to develop more than 6,400 acres of land, it demanded that interested parties buy the plan at Sh4 from the public map office in Nairobi.

In the notice published in April, 1972, the Ministry of Local Government categorised the developments into separate dwelling houses, residential flats, terraced maisonettes and semi-detached houses.

According to the original plan, plots for shops and offices were to attract a standing premium charge of Sh4,000 and a further Sh200 as annual rent. The developers were supposed to pay additional fees to the commissioner of land for roads and other amenities. They were also to pay Sh460 survey fees.

The bulk of the land was however reserved for residential houses covering 55,998 hectares. The developers were required to pay a standing premium of Sh3,260 and an annual rent of Sh460.

The leases were to be renewed after 33rd and 66th year. Further, the president or any of his agents had the right to enter the land and lay water pipes, drains, telephone and overhead or underground telegraph lines.

The landlords were forbidden from constructing buildings in designated areas which would interfere with access to the service lines.

Today, South C has come of age and the thousands of acres of empty land have been populated with high-rise buildings in some instances negating the low-density areas set aside for single-unit rental buildings.

The estate, which is just a stone's throw away from the CBD and once the home of the budding middle-class, has morphed into a nightmare.

It is no longer the dream estate it used to be thanks to flooding and unplanned highrise buildings among other issues.

Three years ago, the estate witnessed massive flooding after downpours in the city. This left several houses marooned by water and property worth millions of shillings destroyed.

With the rate at which its neighbour, South B, is losing single dwelling units, which are being flattened to create room for skyscraper apartments, only time will tell whether this estate will keep at least part of its original design in the next 50 years.