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Covid will influence housing trends towards Nairobi outskirts

By Jeremy Gitonga | January 17th 2021

Jeremy Gitonga is the Managing Director, Maven Design & Build Ltd. [Courtesy]

One of the unintended consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is the influence it is exerting on emerging house designs and the tick list for potential homeowners.

For urban dwellers especially, the virus has underscored the true value of a house.

Whether a privately-owned home in a prestigious address or a rental in a less famous location, coronavirus has brought to the fore the fact that a house is not just a place to sleep and wait on the following day.

Rather, it is a potential haven for unprecedented eventualities like what the pandemic has thrust upon the world.

Comfort in your own home is important. Coronavirus has served lessons on the importance of investments that can make drawn-out situations like lockdowns manageable: running water, reliable electricity, good furniture, well stocked kitchen and entertainment platforms, among others.

Tales of tensions and conflicts provoked by corona-enforced companionship within spartan homes aside, the virus has reminded us that feathering your nest with the self-love of modest luxury is not extravagance.

Three key considerations have put homes at the heart of the containment measures against the pandemic.

The first is space. Restrictions on assembly and movement are essentially meant to limit the number of people within a given area.

The reason why authorities have insisted on people staying at home is to minimise interactions and to decongest shared spaces.     

The second point is privacy. Homes are assumed to be restricted environments where occupants largely have a say on who to let in or out.

If a family does not wish to entertain visitors, for instance, the assumption is that it can easily shut the gate or the door.

Privacy is heightened in the Covid situation when need for self-isolation arises. It also means the fewer the homes within your locality, the better.

Safety is the third consideration. Whether referring to freedom from physical harm or health concerns around cleanliness and sanitation, a home is ideally a fortress of sorts.

Therefore, finer knowledge of who your neighbours are and features such as ventilation, air quality, acoustics and natural lighting grow in importance.   

Plenty of space

Trends in the housing sector point to a growing desire for houses that have plenty of space. Demand for spacious single-family homes or apartments with few units is growing.

Clients are now taking special note of the total square metres in a given property and not just for the size. For apartments, the less the better. Covid-19 has also promoted the work-from-home phenomenon. With traditional offices shutting down and employees required to work from home, finding working space in homes has become a necessity.

This has meant converting or modifying rooms where possible. For new buyers or renters, insistence on a house with a dedicated private room or a library is not a fussy fad but a practical need.

For lovers of space, less congestion, fresh air and greenery for home environment, Kiambu, Kajiado and Machakos counties are attractive options. Unlike Nairobi, they have the land to host new, spacious developments with ideal serenity.

Land ­– and therefore homes – are also comparatively cheaper than in the city.

Besides, with indications suggesting working from home will outlive the pandemic, the importance of a favourable distance from the office when looking for a house has been eroded.

Investments such as Cytonn’s Alma, Kijani Ridge and Unity homes in Tatu City, the Northlands City and Tilisi in Kiambu County, Safaricom and Greatwall Gardens in Machakos and Kings Serenity in Kajiado counties respectively stand to benefit from buyers and renters refined tastes honed by the Covid experience.

Tatu City, for instance, has reportedly seen a marked rise in the uptake of its properties by potential buyers attracted by its good infrastructure and urban planning.

- The author is the managing director, Maven Design & Build Ltd, a Kenyan-based construction consultancy.

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