Why the age of apartments across the country is nigh


An apartment block at Kimende. [XN Iraki]

In the 1960s and 70s, it was hard for us to figure out how one could live in the air, like a bird in an apartment. There were no apartments, no tarmacked roads or electric lighting where we grew up. There was not a single-storey building in my village, even those built by mzungu.

Years later, I became a resident of Nairobi through studentship. But even then, apartment blocks were rare. Maisonettes with one floor were the in-thing. Nairobi was like Loresho, with bungalows. We lived close to the ground, more like most mammals.

More than 60 years after uhuru (independence), all that has changed. We are now joining birds in the air. And it’s not just in urban areas, even rural areas have joined the apartment revolution.

Noted apartments along Nairobi-Naivasha road, as far as Kimende? Noted the same on other highways?

My sojourn abroad led me to Harlem in New York and its tall apartment blocks. I found such blocks in other US cities and also in China. Apartments do not seem to be very European.

White highlands

Kenya is just joining the rest of the world. Building apartments in addition to reduced attention span is another sign that we are developing.

Why now? The land is getting scarce. Even in once expansive white highlands, the population has grown and more people have come to accept that living among birds is normal. I have always felt we need to limit land subdivision; it makes land uneconomical with speculation gaining currency over innovation. 

But it’s more than that. The high cost of land in big urban areas and cities like Nairobi has chased lots of people out. If you got Sh15 million, should you buy a quarter of an acre of land on the outskirts of Nairobi or a quarter far away and use the difference to build?

Another incentive to build apartments is better transport and roads. You can now live further away from the city and easily commute. 

In addition to better utilisation of land, the supply of apartments will moderate rent near urban centres, and give renters a choice. Some think it’s a result of devolution, with more services going to rural areas.

It might also be seen as cool to live in flats, and more secure. 

Few can contest the age of apartments here. The greenly might go, but more houses on smaller pieces of land. Is that a good trade-off? Do you live in an apartment? Do you own apartments? Talk to us.