Housing projects spur growth in counties

An apartment under construction at Hill School Estate in Eldoret town

An apartment under construction at Hill School Estate in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County, on October 15, 2020.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The North Rift region, the country’s food basket, is experiencing rapid socio-economic transformation.

Counties in the region are wooing investors in real estate to put up modern housing units to accommodate the growing population.

The devolved units are offering land in public-private partnership deals as residents living near urban centres convert agricultural land to commercial purposes to get a piece of the pie.

“What we are witnessing is the emergence of high-end estates in terms of modern architectural designs to meet the increasing demand,” said Mr Felix Komen of Eldoret-based Dador Property Agencies.

Uasin Gishu County, for instance, is turning its old estates into affordable housing projects in partnership with the National Housing Corporation (NHC) at a cost of Sh160 million. The units will be offered to potential buyers under a mortgage scheme.

Residents say the county is committed to resolving the housing crisis. “The partnership between the county and private sector to build affordable homes will resolve the housing crisis,” said Mr Joshua Koech from Kamagut.

Trailblazing counties in housing and lands sector include Nyeri, Tharaka-Nithi, Embu, Uasin Gishu, Kisii, Kirinyaga, Muranga, Trans Nzoia, Nandi and Makueni.

In Trans Nzoia, the county government has entered into a deal with NHC to repossess houses occupied by illegal tenants.

Lands, Physical Planning and Urban Development executive Jane Rose Mutama said they are in the process of settling squatters.

Nandi Governor Stephen Sang’s administration plans to build 10,000 houses in partnership with NHC to benefit middle and low-level earners.

In Nyeri, the Lands, Housing, Physical Planning and Urban Development department is redeveloping five dilapidated county estates.

Planning executive Ndirangu Gachunia says poor housing conditions, small dwelling units, poor infrastructure and sub-optimal utilisation of prime land have necessitated the urgent need for renewal.

“The proposed redevelopments will lead to construction of 1,249 affordable units comprising 16 three-bedroom, 344 two-bedroom, 596 one-bedroom and 293 bedsitter units,” said Mr Gachunia.

In Embu, Lands, Housing and Urban Development executive Raymond Kinyua said the devolved unit is collaborating with the national government in implementing the affordable housing programme.

The scheme targets to put up 4,000 units in the county, with each of the four constituencies getting 100 units. The first 100 units are at 50 per cent completion.

The informal settlements targeted for upgrade include Shauri Yako, Grogan, Ithata, and Majimbo under the World Bank's Kenya Informal Settlement Improvement Project (Kisip).

On land administration and management, Embu is a step ahead in land digitisation. The county has established a Geographic Information System (GIS) lab to assist in settling land disputes, expedite and enhance land transactions, improve efficiency of storage and retrieval of land records and ultimately improve service delivery to residents.

Kisii is characterised by numerous land cases, with 80 per cent of crime, according to police reports, being linked to land conflicts.

The county government has in the past 10 years lost several parcels of its land to powerful individuals.

So vicious is the land grabbing menace that hundreds of people have lost their lives fighting for land while thousands others have been maimed while many individuals spend years in court corridors pursuing justice.

However, Governor Simba Arati is keen on reversing the trend that saw the National Land Commission term Kisii a land-grabbing epicentre.

“We are now acquiring title deeds for county government-owned land,” said Mr Arati.

The governor has so far recovered several parcels of land and is securing others which are at risk of being encroached into including markets and village polytechnics.

The county has set aside Sh20 million for implementation of a Geographic Information System that will be critical in decision making.

- Reporting by Ruth Mbula, Evans Jaola, Barnabas Bii, Mercy Mwende and George Munene