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Real estate stakeholders welcome lands bosses’ truce

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Nicholas Waitathu | December 16th 2014

Real estate investors have applauded the decision by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and National Land Commission (NLC) to end their differences and work together.

The sector stakeholders said the agreement would unlock long-standing disputes in the property market that have contributed to below-par exploitation of land as a key component of economic growth.

Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu and NLC Chairman Mohamed Swazuri two weeks ago agreed to co-operate, following a meeting brokered by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

Mr Kenyatta noted that land contributed in large part to the country’s economic growth, and cannot be exploited in the presence of wrangles.

He said the two institutions must work in harmony to ensure land reforms are fully implemented.

Encourage investment

Business stakeholders in the property market agreed that the agreement would encourage investment and help the country tackle emerging challenges.

Economists and experts from the Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI), a land lobby group, said the differences between the two institutions had been fuelled by a lack of clarity on their functions and separation of roles.

LDGI Chairman Ibrahim Mwathane said the business community has suffered greatly in the last two years as the ministry and NLC differed over the execution of reforms in the lands sector.

“However, the recent developments in the lands sector give us reason for optimism,” he said.

“Now, the ministry and commission need to work smart, and seize and utilise the political and stakeholder goodwill to move programmes in Kenya’s lands sector.”

During a recent stakeholders’ meeting in Nairobi, Ms Ngilu and Mr Swazuri assured attendants that the President-initiated agreement is bearing fruit, with the technical team formed to clarify the institutions’ roles and functions finalising its report. The report will form the basis of their complementary relationship.

The two institutions have been disagreeing over who should issue title deeds, as well who holds the overall mandate in the sector.

Mr Mwathane said the standoff between the commission and ministry led to some property owners suspending development plans until the two bodies resolve their issues.

He added that banks have been reluctant to give loans secured on newly issued titles, as their authenticity had been questioned by the NLC.

In an interview, Barclays Bank of Kenya Managing Director Jeremy Awori agreed borrowers, especially those who have bought land since last year, have faced challenges using their property as security to access loans.

“The differences between the commission and ministry have ... affected investment inflows into the country, as well as investor confidence,” he said.

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