Housing project does not benefit the poor, MPs told

Some of the Mombasa residents touring the Sh 6 billion Buxton Point estate during the hand over of the completed houses to their owners at Buxton in Mombasa County on Saturday 16th September 2023. [Kelvin Karani, Standard] 

The National Assembly concluded gathering public opinions and suggestions on the recently presented Bill on the affordable housing plan.

In Mombasa, the Housing, Urban Planning and Public Works Committee got mixed reactions with some residents drawing parallels with the just completed Sh6 billion Buxton Point Apartments.

Mr Peter Kazungu told the Johanna Ngeno-led committee that going by the experience of the Buxton Point Apartments, the affordable housing project will benefit the middle class and not the poor.

“The Buxton Apartments project was also sold to us the same way the affordable housing plan is packaged. But the project has not benefited the poor from Moroto slums or even those moved from the old houses that were demolished,” said Kazungu.

He claimed most of the apartments have been purchased by businessmen who want to convert them to short-stay guest houses.

Under the affordable housing programme, the government ‘s plan to erect over 50,000 housing units in Mombasa. Some of the proposed sites are Ganjoni 2.1 acres, Hobley six acres and VOK 22 acres.

Others are Shimo la Tewa 60 acres and National Housing Corporation (NHC) 58 acres of land in Changamwe, where eviction and demolition were carried out last week.

The Buxton Phase I is completed with 582 units and Phase II is expected to build 1,512 units.

Speaking at Ronald Ngala Social Hall in Mombasa, the committee chairman, Mr Ngeno lauded the active participation of citizens, housing advocates and industry professionals, emphasizing the invaluable role of public input in shaping effective policy.

“For close to a month, we have been conducting nationwide consultations to gather feedback from citizens, particularly on the significant matters: collection of the levy as stipulated in the Finance Act, and subsequent implementation of the said levy,” Ngeno said.

Overseeing allocated funds

He emphasized that the implementation of the levy hinges on establishment of a board of management responsible for overseeing the allocated funds.

He highlighted the importance of collaborating with agencies such as the NHC and the State Department for Housing to execute these projects. Ngeno mentioned that residents from Changamwe sub county raised concerns regarding demolition of houses, highlighting it as a significant issue.

He said their intention was to gain a deeper understanding of the specifics. “We have been informed that some individuals residing in those houses were previously allocated alternative housing. Of the 80 individuals originally residing there, 18 are currently still occupying the premises,” he said.

He said the committee, in collaboration with the State Department and the County Commissioner, reached an agreement to address the issue comprehensively because their objective is to resolve the matter permanently, emphasizing their commitment to improving the lives of the affected individuals.

He also addressed another issue that arose about the allocation of houses to the Buxton Heights project where residents are claiming that some people who were living there initially were not considered.

“The residents of the former Buxton estate requested that priority be given to the current occupants of the plots when allocating the houses and we have reached a consensus on this issue,” he stated.

He mentioned that various perspectives and proposals have arisen regarding the issue, including the possibility of adjusting the levy amount or exploring alternative financing methods for the projects.

He said that 80 percent of the people who made their proposals were for the affordable housing agenda.

However, he observed that the primary concern expressed by the public has been whether taxation should be imposed, voluntary contributions encouraged, or borrowing pursued as the means of funding.

He said it is upon the committee to balance how to make the public’s housing dreams come true and how to build their houses without affecting their other ways of living and not imposing a great dent in their finances.

Mombasa County Commissioner Abdirisack Jaldesa affirmed the demolition of the Changamwe Houses saying NHC offered to rebuild the houses that were in very poor state.

Jaldesa said that NHC built alternative houses for the 80 residents and that only 62 houses moved.