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Give us Sh2 billion to bring down illegal buildings, says State regulator

By Mercy Odhiambo and Jennifer Anyango | Updated Tue, July 18th 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3
Rescuers at the scene where a seven-storey building collapsed in Pipeline last month. According to the construction authority, it is costly to demolish illegal buildings. [File, Standard]

The National Construction Authority has often been accused of being a toothless dog when it comes to demolishing illegal structures.

However, it has now emerged that demolitions are an expensive affair, besides a host of other factors that come to play whenever the authority’s intervention is required.

National Construction Authority chairman Stephen Oundo says demolishing an illegal building, in a professional manner, would cost the authority Sh3 million to Sh3.5 million. Although it is supposed to claim the money from the owner of the condemned building later, he says, it is never easy.

According to an audit report by the National Building Inspectorate, over 600 houses have been marked for demolition. So far, only 40 buildings have been brought down.

Oundo said professionals are needed to execute the job so as not to interfere with other nearby buildings. He said there have been instances where NCA gives notices, but the owners ignore forcing the authority to demolish the buildings.

But he insisted that the bylaws governing construction in the city should be fully implemented. For example, Oundo said, it is a legal requirement that buildings with more than four floors have lifts.

“This is a bylaw that was to be effected in 2012. Buildings constructed before the law came into effect should provide an alternative means,” said Oundo.

Enforcing the law

He, however, agreed that enforcing the law on all the buildings was not easy since NCA was formed in 2014 while the bylaws have been in existence since 2012.

By the time the authority started working, most buildings had already been constructed without approval, forcing it to go through the courts to handle the situation.

According to Oundo, there are procedures to be followed with regards to buildings that do not meet construction requirements.

“One, the owners should be forced to provide an alternative means... guaranteeing the tenants’ safety,” said Oundo.

Oundo also mentioned some of the challenges they face include owners rushing to court to stop demolitions and the court proceedings take time. He also added that some of the buildings are owned by cartels, and they find it hard to carry out demolitions due to security risks.

Security concerns

“There are cartels who own buildings and cannot be accessed, this is one thing we are really trying to harmonise with the police as the NCA staff face a lot of intimidation,” said Oundo.

Oundo explained the categories of buildings that were marked for demolitions by the audit; these included the ones where no architect was involved though the structure was sound. Owners were asked to regulate and get approval.

The second category were buildings with structural weaknesses; that involved poor lighting and sewerage, and lack of lifts. Owners were to enforce and implement proper systems.

The final category were buildings that did not matter and could not be salvaged in terms of structure for example buildings in road reserves. Oundo linked the collapsing of buildings to so many factors including the design, mix of concrete and using poor materials.

He appealed to the Media and society to report any marked houses and take pictures of those in bad states.