NAIROBI: Developers of Jacaranda Gardens describe it as a plush, middle-class neighbourhood with a serene, homely environment, offering a relaxing life and “elegant provisions and surroundings to allow you to dream big and let your imagination soar”.
But lately, Jacaranda’s environment has not been very conducive for some of its big-dreaming residents.
Located on Kamiti Road and about a ten-minute drive from Thika Superhighway, the mega housing project recently became the latest victim of residents’ backlash after a series of documented problems revolving around the failure of the estate’s management to provide some initially promised facilities or keep the ones on the ground in good condition.
This saw residents take to social media and stage on-site protests against the developer, SIETCO Construction Company, a Chinese State-owned firm.
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“#JacarandaBuyerBeware the demo is against SIETCO the Chinese Co – pool is dirty, unsafe, no clubhouse, no gym, no supermarket, no kindergarten,” read one tweet that seemed to capture the heart of whole situation.
Jacaranda Gardens residents were promised a clubhouse, according to the brochures and various forms of advertisement that the development carried out.
“We moved in when Phase One and Two were almost complete. A promise was made that these facilities would be available to us, but years down the line that is yet to be fulfilled. Then we started seeing these adverts for Phase Three promoting facilities which were not there,” says Leah Wamanga, a resident at Jacaranda Gardens, explaining the genesis of the problems at Jacaranda
According to reports, the clubhouse on-site is being used by Chinese workers who bought housing units and live within the grounds.
Jacaranda, which also promised residents a kindergarten and a swimming pool, was following in the footsteps most new developments that include such amenities as schools, swimming pools and clubhouses to attract middle-income Kenyans.
Well-established developments with clubhouses include Windsor Park Estate, where residents pay Sh65,000 per month in maintenance fees, alongside the maintenance of the homes’ gardens and exclusive access to the nearby Windsor Golf Club.
“We advertised for someone to come and take up the clubhouse over two years ago. There were not enough estate managers in Kenya that were willing to lease it,” says Wayne Wu, the SIETCO sales manager for Jacaranda Gardens.
He adds: “We leased out the clubhouse to CRBC (China Railway and Build Company) who were in need of an office space and dining facilities for their staff, and also bought over 30 apartments in the development. The kindergarten is being used as a dining hall by the Chinese workers. They will use it until we find an estate manager who will fully manage it on behalf of the residents, together with other facilities like the upcoming Phase Three mall when we exit the project as developers in 2017.”
It is hard to convince residents that the clubhouse was leased out to China Railway and Bridge Company and not the ‘Chinese’.
Jacaranda joins the growing list of developments that have had a number of issues brought against the developer.
Others on the list include Athi River’s Greenpark Estate, which ended up being embroiled in a legal tussle with a faction of the residents’ association.
Greenpark Estate residents had an array of problems with the developer. The problems included cracking walls and moulds and no connection to the main county sewer trunks as promised.
Early last year in an interview with Home & Away, residents complained that overflowing sewage from the on-site treatment plant was finding its way into the houses at the lowest part of the development when it rained.
At the time, the developer of the estate said that it was an oversight which was being corrected and had already gotten the necessary approvals.
Jacaranda Gardens targeted middle-class buyers. Most of the unit owners, however, are investors who bought two or more units to rent out to the public for between Sh40,000 and Sh60,000.
Home & Away visited the development soon after the residents’ concerns started doing the rounds on social media.
As a writer, I have been to a number of developments and I have to say Jacaranda’s landscape is pretty outstanding. From the trees in the middle of the main road that the developers saved, it is a model for future green themes in apartment development.
The swimming pool area, which was among the first stops, looked like a leaky mess. And the size, considering that over 500 apartment units are already occupied, was worrying.
“We did not anticipate the size of a pool water system in the civil-engineering design stage. We are in the process of procuring a new pump to replace the old one that was not efficient,” says Mr Wu.
We couldn’t visit residents’ houses as there were no prior arrangements, but we were able to view the show house for Phase Three of the project, which is currently on sale at Sh9.1 million.
“From one phase to another, we have tried to improve on the interior design and some of the materials used. We are changing this particular door. We have identified another type of door that will be used in the rest of the units in this block,” says Wu.
Ordinarily, as developers move from the first phase of the project to the next, they tend to slightly alter the interior design of the units, depending on what worked or didn’t work to either add value or reduce costs.
One lesson that potential buyers must learn from the Jacaranda debacle is that it is usually prudent to look at the fine print in the sale agreement signed by both parties, than to be ‘wowed’ by the brochure.
Legally, the sale agreement should have a list of the facilities promised and the date of delivery, especially for those buying off-plan.