Ruto hands over first 'affordable houses' even as hustlers protest

President William Ruto handing over Keys to beneficiaries during the Launch of Bondeni Affordable Housing Project at Bondeni in Nakuru city on January 13,2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

President William Ruto has officially handed over the keys to the first lot of affordable housing units in Nakuru City amid calls by hustlers for cheaper houses.

The initial phase of the Bondeni affordable housing project in Nakuru East constituency is now in the hands of its new owners. Under the project, 605 units are ready for occupation.

Of the 605 houses, 484 (80 percent) houses were set aside for sale to interested citizens under the Affordable Housing Programme while 212 units (20 percent) were reserved for civil servants under the Civil Service Mortgage Scheme.

The housing project, which was started by the former Jubilee administration, comprises 45 one-bedroom houses which have been sold for Sh1.55 million each, 180 two-bedroom units at Sh3.15 million each, and 380 three-bedroom units which cost Sh4.25 million per unit.

Construction of the project commenced on May 27, 2021, with a Sh2 billion funding by King Sapphire Developers, a subsidiary of Royal Group Industries that focuses on real estate developments.

In December, last year, during a meeting with journalists at State House in Nairobi, President Ruto defended the cost of the affordable housing project.

“To own a house in Kenya today you need to have 4 million, 5 million [for] the cheapest house. We are giving an opportunity through this affordable housing programme for a mama mboga or a boda boda guy to buy a house of Sh400,000 where they can pay Sh4,000 a month and eventually own a house,” noted Ruto.

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But on the Ministry of Lands advert, the Sh400,000 is just 10 percent of the total house price.

Speaking at the site in Kivumbini where he handed over keys to new owners of 360 homes, Dr Ruto said the shift in the delivery model for social housing will relieve ordinary Kenyans of the burden of owning a house.

“It also enables us to open up our economy and use housing to drive sustainable development,” the president noted.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua urged the president to continue with his agenda of creating employment for the youth through the affordable housing project.

The Bondeni Affordable Housing Project in Nakuru city on January 13, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

“You promised the youth jobs, you also told Kenyans that you will give affordable houses and improve the healthcare in the country. Your excellency, it is your time to deliver, do not be distracted,” Gachagua said.

Governor Susan Kihika said various affordable housing projects in the county were in progress.

She reported that projects in Elburgon, Molo and Bahati sub-counties were ongoing and her administration has identified appropriate sites that will help spur urban development in the respective neighborhoods.

New homeowners

While issuing keys to the new homeowners, Ruto told thousands of tenants occupying former local government houses that they would be given priority in the social housing scheme.

Ruto announced that his administration plans to build 10,000 housing units in Nakuru.

“We have identified some parcels of  land belonging to the government for the projects. The lands are located at Pipeline, Section 58 dog-section and Lanet,” the president said.

He said under the social housing scheme, tenants will pay as little as Sh3,000 rent, in a rent-to-own scheme.

“We will have houses for those who can afford Sh5,000 rent, those who can pay Sh10,000. We will also have an option for those who can pay Sh20,000,” he said.

The president’s announcement follows a complaint by a section of Nakuru residents who claimed the cost of the recently advertised affordable houses was exorbitant and beyond the reach of ordinary citizens.

The Nakuru County Public Opinion Consultative Initiative has written to the Lands and Housing Cabinet Secretary alleging bias and discrimination in the allocation of the houses and calling for addressing of its members’ concern.

A Nakuru-based rights activist, Benson Macharia, said when the housing project was being launched, the government had announced that only civil servants would be allowed to purchase the houses under government-funded mortgage.

However, Macharia added that the houses were later sold to individuals who had money and who did not reside in Nakuru.

“The government is now offering only two and three bedroom houses as the one-bedroom houses were sold to individuals who now want to convert them to AirBnB,” Macharia said.

The political activist said most of the people occupying county houses, some of which neighbour the county government housing project, were paying between Sh1,500 and Sh3,000 monthly rent.

“A one-bedroom county house is paid Sh3,000 in the form of monthly rent and can therefore not afford to pay the Sh16,000 monthly rent in order to own the unit,” he added.

Chief Executive Officer of the Nakuru County Human Rights Network David Kuria expressed concern over the high cost of the houses.

“For one to consistently pay Sh16,900 monthly, he must have an income of over Sh60,000 monthly. The majority of Kenyans are struggling to make ends meet. With the escalating cost of living, the income-earners cannot manage to make purchases,” Kuria added.

He said most people’s purchasing power had been eroded by inflation, making it difficult to plan, especially where one is expected to make regular payments towards the purchase of a house.

President William Ruto chats with a contractor during the launch of affordable housing project in Uasin Gishu County. [PCS]

“We have matatu owners who have been forced to sell their vehicles to repay bank loans while others are using all their earnings to repay their debts,” Kuria further said.

Peter Sagini, a boda boda operator at Kaptembwo, said he and his colleagues had expected the government to come up with favourable terms for the allocation of the house.

A sukuma wiki seller, Selina Oloo, said she earns Sh500 daily and resides in a mud-walled house where she pays Sh1,300 monthly rent.

“The government should not expect us to purchase such houses. If the government wants to help us, let it allocate us those houses and we be paying less than Sh2,000 monthly,” Oloo said.

However, Senior Housing Director Richard Tuta defended the project, insisting it will help low-income earners acquire decent homes at the most affordable prices possible.

“Our intention is to make sure that every Kenyan who is paying rent, those living in slums, they too can become homeowners,” Tuta said during a site visit at the Bahati sub-county.  

Earlier in Naivasha yesterday, President Ruto launched a Sh700 million power sub-station that will serve the Special Economic Zones (SEZ).

Ruto said the investors from Kenya, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands, Japan and Switzerland had already mobilised more than Sh28 billion and created 2,846 jobs in enterprises.

“In this 1,000-acre Naivasha economic zone, youths have earned jobs in bottling, EV cars, logistics, power and energy, steel mill, plant essence extraction and regional car auction,” said the president.

Ruto campaigned for SEZ, saying it was a perfect example of the bottom-up economic transformation agenda in action.

The head of state praised the investors and said their decision to bet on Kenya’s future was a clear indication that “we have come of age as a compelling investment destination and an economy”.

“We are now able to offer investors a globally competitive system of infrastructure, simplified regulatory framework, value chain integration and clustering, greater access to markets and attractive tax incentives,” he added.

He noted that Naivasha’s SEZ enjoys a low-cost tariff per kilowatt-hour of clean, green geothermal power, full access to operational internal container terminals and a complete water supply.

“SEZ has a 50km network of water supply pipes supported by a 10,000 cubic metre off-site reservoir, a high-quality road network and internet connectivity infrastructure,” said Ruto.

He said SEZ had demonstrated its potential to create direct and indirect employment, industrialise Kenya, promote local value addition, integration of value chains and development of sector clusters.

As a result, Ruto said Kenya has been elected to serve on the steering committee of the Africa Economic Zones Organisation.

“Two of our seven special economic zones, Konza Technopolis and Tatu City, have also been nominated as environmental, social and governance models by the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development,” said the president.

[Kennedy Gachuhi and Daniel Chege and Steve Mkawale]

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