Sonko's housing plan hangs in the balance

Nairobi’s estates renewal plan could delay even further as obstacles to the programme continue to mount.

To run as part of the Urban Renewal and Housing Regeneration Programme, the Nairobi City County (NCC) is planning to give thousands of low income houses, especially in its populous estates, a major facelift.

The first phase of the project dubbed ‘Eastlands Urban Renewal Plan’ will see the Ministry of Housing and Nairobi County government put up 117,000 houses to replace the 15,000 that are in the area, that hosts approximately 55,000 households.

Old and New Ngara, Jeevanjee, Suna Road, Ngong Road Phases one and two, Bachelors Quarters and Pangani are among the estates targeted for the urban renewal at more than Sh50 billion.

In the public domain is also the plan by the County to carry out the ambitious project through a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement where some six developers had reportedly been given contracts for the works.

The firms - Technofin Kenya, Green Ederman Property, Green Prestik, Jabavu Village, Stanlib Kenya and Directline Assurance Limited – were expected to put up more than 8,000 units across the city.

Technofin Kenya was expected to redevelop 1,434 units in Pangani estate as Green Erdemman was contracted to develop up to 4,068 units in Ngong Road Phases One and Two.

Green Prestik had been awarded Old Ngara as Stanlib Kenya was contracted to build 1,890 units consisting of one, two and three bedrooms on the 7.5-acre Uhuru Estate.

Directline Assurance was expected to develop 585 houses and 3,000 market stalls in Suna.

However, the project take off has been rocked by delays occasioned by protracted disputes between Nairobi County and the targeted beneficiaries, where almost four years later after the launch, not much progress has been made.

Recent developments show, as late as last week, the County Government had not cleared with relevant parties throwing the project into uncertainty.

Working with the JevaQuarters Residents Association and Economic and Social Rights Centre (Hakijamii), residents of Jevanjee and Old Bachelors Quarters Estate have accused Governor Mike Sonko of breaking the law in planning to forcibly evict them.

JevaQuarters Residents Secretary Leonard Obonyo said in a briefing on Tuesday that despite the existence of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the County Government, tenants have been ordered to vacate the houses in thirty days to pave way for the needed refurbishment.

“Residents of Jevanjee and Old Bachelors Quarters Estate have been tenants of the Nairobi County Government for over 52 years, our relationship with the County transcends beyond mere landlord and tenancy agreement,” said Obonyo

Obonyo further said the residents have no obligation whatsoever to exit unless the terms of an existing MOU were fully executed.

“Key aspects of the MOU dated March 2016 was zero displacements and zero forced eviction of the sitting tenants, before, during and after the project implementation."

He said the county was expected to provide "decanting sites" to house sitting tenants for purposes of relocation. 

"Unfortunately, the MOU has not been executed," said Obonyo.

Hakijamii Programmes Officer Samuel Olando asked Governor Sonko to review the terms of the compensation noting that it was way too inadequate.

“The County Government has offered cheques of Sh600,000 … the current rent prices of a three bedroomed house in Ngara is Sh50,000. The compensation must match this amount otherwise the tenants will not afford housing in the same neighbourhood,” he said. 

Olando said the more than 70 households have rejected the offer on that basis alone. 

Other demands to the County include that the Governor withdraws with immediate effect eviction letters to all sitting tenants even as the same are given first priority in accessing the re-developed houses.

“We demand that the County Government acts in good faith and avail to all sitting tenants an agreement duly executed indicating the terms of exit and re-entry back to the estate after completion of the re-development,” said the lobbies.    

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