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Gentrification: Coming to your neighbourhood

By | March 8th 2012

You’ve probably heard the word before and you will be hearing it a lot, now that Nairobi is full and developers are eying every little available space. There are plenty of neighbourhoods around the bustling Nairobi City Centre that came up in the 1960s and 1970s, but many of the homes in these estates are dilapidated and run down.

If the gentry (the wealthy) make good their plans of acquiring and developing under-utilised land, Nairobi will inadvertently be a hotspot for gentrification, especially in the Eastlands.

Thriving neighbourhoods

The Forbes group views gentrification as a real estate ‘play’. Using Chicago as an example, one can see that there are huge benefits to gentrification. Prior to the changes the city and private developers made, there wasn’t much about parts of the Windy City. The low-income Latino and Black communities that were driven from the gentrified areas would probably argue that they were displaced, but the truth is that they were priced out by taxes, which went up with increased investment and trickled down to rents.

Gentrification, however, has a number of benefits. Chicago, for example, is now rated as one of the top ten cities to visit in the USA. The city has incredible art offerings and world-class restaurants and festivals. Where there were under-utilised and abandoned factories and offices, you can now find luxury lofts and thriving neighbourhoods. Many of the immigrants who were bought out moved to cheaper homes further from the capital.

Nairobians can expect the same thing to happen to them soon. Areas around Juja Road, Jogoo Road, Outer Ring and Moi Airbase, including Mathare slums are prime spots targeted by developers. Those who refuse to move will learn about eminent domain/expropriation (where the Government seizes citizens’ property and gives due monetary compensation).

Other towns such as Mombasa and Malindi also have old buildings that do nothing to improve their beauty and cultural heritage. The newer cities will need enforcement to ensure the buildings coming up meet the required standards.

New apartments

As the need for space compounds annually, the Government also needs to consider the semi-arid areas that have been ignored for decades. To stop the massive movement of rural folk to the capital city, we need new cities to rival Nairobi.

With developments like Konza City coming up and communities expected to develop around them, the goal of making Kenya a middle-income nation in less than 20 years could be achieved.

Meanwhile, as gentrification becomes a reality, watch out for older homes being bought, demolished and boards advertising new apartments and luxury town homes supplant the hedges along the wall.

Kenya is beautiful and Nairobi is an oxymoronic mix of supreme wealth and utter despair, and the city will continue to evolve whether the masses like or not. They need to start making plans and prepare to move out because the power brokers in Kenya usually get what they want.

The writer is a development manager.

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