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Planned affordable housing units face challenges getting off ground

By Macharia Kamau | June 11th 2020

?Plans to build 1,800 housing units in Nairobi’s Ngara estate could face difficulties during the implementation phase. This is after the project was classified as high risk to the human population in the surrounding areas as well as the environment.

Through a public-private partnership, the Nairobi county government plans to build 1,800 affordable housing units where Jeevanjee and Bachelors estates stood until last year.

The mixed-use development will also have commercial units as well as parking slots.

The county and the developers will now have to take extra caution and adhere to the new measures to mitigate the negative social and environmental impacts that have resulted in the project being classified as high risk.

The devolved unit has already gone through a chaotic phase of getting buy-in from the previous tenants that had to agree to move so that the old units could be demolished to pave way for the new project.

Legal notice

The consultants undertaking the environmental and social impact assessment have classified the project as high risk and recommended to the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) to give the contractors a conditional Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The classification is in line with a legal notice published by the Ministry of Environment in 2016. The notice requires projects that are “out of character” with their surroundings or ones that bring about major changes in land use be classified as high risk.

Such projects are placed under heavy scrutiny by environmental management agencies, especially Nema.

“Screening of the proposed project was done and according to the classification described in the above legislation as ‘...Urban development including establishment of new housing estate developments exceeding 100 housing units’ the project is categorised as a high risk project,” reads an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report which has been submitted to Nema.

The report noted that the scoping exercise acknowledged that the project’s potential impact on the natural environment and human environment is significant but can be addressed and mitigated as described in ESIA.

“The categorisation of the project as high risk implies it presents potentially negative impacts on the environment and the social conditions of those concerned.

“These impacts are significant and are hardly reversible but mostly localised. This ESIA has proposed adequate mitigation measures against the impacts and emphasised strict adherence and monitoring.

“It is based on these mitigation measures for the impacts identified in connection with the proposed project and the accumulated benefits that the ESIA team recommends a conditional EIA licence be issued for the project,” the report further reads.

The private-public partnership project, in which the county government has given land, was previously occupied by old and dilapidated houses, which have since been brought down.

The about 80 residents occupying what was called Jeevanjee and Bachelors Estates received Sh600,000 stipend to look for alternative accommodation as well as get priority in the allocation of houses when the new project is completed.

The development will comprise 12 blocks of 14 storeys.

According to the ESIA document, the residential houses will comprise “of government social housing scheme allocated 65 per cent of units and private, low-cost housing units that have been allocated 35 per cent of the units.  

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