Bulldozers manned by Kisumu County officials yesterday brought down county houses in a bid to force out tenants who allegedly have accrued rent arrears.
One of the houses to be demolished belonged to Erick Okeyo, the chairperson of the National Water Harvesting and Storage Authority, who has for long been embroiled in a legal tussle with the county administration over ownership of the house.
Yesterday, Mr Okeyo said he had renovated the house at a cost of Sh6.5 million after the county government gave him a green light to do so in 2016.
He said he had sent a letter to the county informing officials of the renovations.
According to documents seen by The Standard, the county claims that Okeyo has accumulated rent arrears amounting to Sh5.4 million.
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“I am shocked. A responsible county government would have had the courtesy to respond to my letter. Why did they have to bring a bulldozer to demolish the house?” posed Okeyo.
When The Standard visited Okeyo’s house moments before it was flattened by bulldozers it established that the house had indeed been renovated with new features including a new ceilings being put up.
The county government has earmarked several houses for demotion, seeking to force tenants out.
Several of the tenants include prominent politicians and government officials.
Yesterday, a number of residents questioned the decision by the county to flatten some of the houses over the rent stalemate despite the houses being in a good condition.
Another house that was brought down belonged to a tenant who has been paying Sh20,000 in rent, which the county administration wanted to increase to Sh60,000.
According to other documents seen by The Standard, including a letter dated October 23 written by the acting City Manager Abala Wanga and addressed to Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o, the city manager claimed that the house was in a deplorable state.
“The city needs to repossess the house in order to renovate it,” read the letter in part.
The house reclamation initiative by the county administration has caused jitters among several tenants.
Yesterday, Kisumu county askaris blocked a road leading to the tenant’s house in Milimani as the eviction was taking place.
Last month, several other prominent politicians who have tenancy agreements with the county government were issued with eviction notices to vacate the houses.
Mr Wanga said a legislator and another senior State official who were at the risk of facing eviction, have since come into an agreement with the county government.
The State officials had been handed eviction notices dated between October 7 and 13.
“We have to safeguard the properties of the county government. We are going to recover all the county houses. Most are in a deplorable state and dilapidated,” said Wanga.
He also revealed that another State official whose house had been registered through his wife, and was served with an eviction notice, opted to leave peacefully. He handed over the keys to his house last week.
Other tenants, including county staff who are occupying 28 county houses, are also expected to find alternative housing by November 30.
Wanga said the houses will be reclaimed for renovation.
“We will be taking all these houses back so that they can undergo repairs to make them look modern,” he said.
The county plans to turn some of the houses into offices. Land on which the demolished houses occupied will be transferred to the county assembly.
Wanga said the county government will still demand rent from State officials who have accumulated arrears even after they vacate or are forcibly evicted.