Pain of Green Park families who have to move after sinking savings in houses
By Akello Odenyo and Gloria Aradi
| June 19th 2018
Sixty-nine year-old Francis Opiyo only wanted a home where he could retire peacefully after serving as the Officer Commanding Police Division in Nyando.
From his retirement benefits he managed to buy a house at the upmarket Green Park Estate that is located in Athi River for Sh6 million. The year was 2006.
But his dream for a peaceful sunset years could be over in the next 48 hours. His house is one of those marked by Water Resources Authority (WRA) for demolition this Thursday.
“I first heard about the possible demolitions while at my rural home in Migori, after a friend called and told me that WRA had blacklisted some buildings,” he says.
Shock of a lifetime
When he returned to his Green Park home and confirmed that his house was among those marked for demolition, Opiyo collapsed.
When he regained consciousness he was in Nairobi West Hospital, where he was slapped with a Sh100,000 bill after a four-day admission.
His wife Esther Opiyo, frantic with worry, quickly followed him to the city after hearing of his collapse. The couple that has three adult children is still in shock over the prospect of losing the home.
Every now and then neighbours come to check on his progress. With sad eyes, he tells them, “I know with time I will be alright”.
Even now, just two days before WRA makes real its promise to bring down the houses, Opiyo says he is not planning to move out, because he has nowhere else in the city to go or store his belongings.
WRA issued Opiyo and other home owners with notice to demolish eight houses said to be built on riparian reserves.
The houses, which were valued at Sh5 million eight years ago, are now worth Sh20 million.
Murimi Ngugi, who purchased his unit at Sh5 million more than eight years ago, estimates that it is now well worth over Sh18.5 million.
In a letter dated May 31, WRA asked the owners to remove house number 27 from riparian reserve and restore the original state within 21 days from the date on the letter.
“Water resource management asked us to remove the houses and if we don’t, they would do it themselves at our cost,” said Esther Kihara, a tenant.
According to Kihara, the residents of the estate are yet to recover from the March flooding incident.
“Electronics like the refrigerator and washing machine were destroyed by the floods. Our children are also still traumatised, but we don’t have a choice except to move,” says Kihara.
Kihara and her husband had started the process of purchasing the house they are renting from their landlord.
She, however, says she already found another house somewhere else in Athi River, but will be more careful about staying near riparian reserves from now.
Unlike Kihara, who is a tenant at the estate, many of the affected lack the ease to move swiftly, having sunk their savings into the houses.
When they were buying the houses, the owners said they assumed that all statutory bodies, including WRA, NEMA, and Machakos County physical planning department had approved the structures.
“I bought into a promise of security, a promise of peaceable living, but when it rains, I don’t get that. The children keep asking when we are leaving and they are visibly disturbed,” said Anthony Chacha, a home owner.
The house owners said the river that lured them into buying a house at Green Park with a beautiful view has become the reason for their problems today.
“We asked if we are on the river bank or if we could be affected, but they said they had built in a way that the estate could not flood. We never imagined that the river would one day be part of the house,” said Chacha.
Athi River, which flows a few meters from their houses, burst its banks in the past rainy season and caused their houses to flood.
Most of the owners are paying mortgages of as much as Sh80,000 monthly, and will continue even after demolitions. They now want the developer to compensate them.
“When I bought the property, it was in good faith. At that time, we could talk. Now no one is talking to me,” Opiyo says.
Now, Opiyo and the other owners of the affected homes, have approached a lawyer and are planning on seeking compensation from Superior Homes.
When The Standard visited the neighbourhood yesterday, a valuer was assessing the properties.
Superior Homes said Green Park had not encroached the riparian reserve, adding that an independent survey shows existence of a buffer of 2.6 metres from the riparian reserve to the homes.
They said the masonry boundary was 25 metres to riverbank upstream and 30 metres downstream.
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