Kisumu’s old estates are dying slowly as the city expands


Houses at Lolwe estate in Kisumu.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Just like other Kenyan major towns, Kisumu has old houses that have stood the test of time.

Many of the houses were built more than three decades ago. The houses that were named after prominent personalities have been occupied by those who worked as either local or national government employees.

The old municipal council developed the houses using a loan from the National Housing Corporation.

The council, however, defaulted on loan repayment and consequently handed over the houses to the National Housing Corporation.

The corporation was to collect rent and pay until the Sh1 billion debt is fully paid. 

Kisumu estates which include Ondiek, Anderson, Lumumba, Arina, Argwings Kodhek, Makasembo, Shauri Moyo and Mosque are fairly affordable.

The houses are now being demolished to give room for the construction of high-rise residential flats. 

The tenants paid rent of between Sh1,200 for one-bedroom units and Sh4,000 for three-bedroom units.

Makasembo and Anderson estates have already been brought down to give way for the construction of modern houses. 

Mr Okoth Orero, 80, has lived in Arina Estate for the last 45 years. The house was allocated to him in 1975 by the defunct Kisumu Municipal Council when he was Manyatta Primary School head teacher.

Other people who stayed in Arina were company managers, businessmen, senior clerical officers and teachers.

Sh120 rent

Mr Orero’s rent then paid Sh120 rent. He believes the houses should not be destroyed.

“In England, old estates were not demolished and are a historical heritage. The same should be the case with the old Kisumu estates,” said Mr Orero.

He says the best way to manage the houses is by allowing tenants to renovate and own them.

He said that in Arina, offers for the 525 housing units had been made. Phase 1 houses proposed value was Sh600, 000, Phase 2 (Sh600, 000), Phase 3 (Sh500, 000) and Phase 4 (Sh400, 000).

Most of the old estates are in deplorable states. Their water meters, water pipes and manhole covers have been vandalised.

He says the tenants may not afford to pay rent for the new houses.

Recently, the Kisumu County government started looking for investors to manage the run-down facilities in the city.

The acting City Manager Abala Wanga in an Expression of Interest (EOI) published in the Daily Nation dated December 14th, 2022, called on consultants to guide on the best approach to take in the management of the houses.

The consultancy services shall include advisory on scoping, value retention and extraction, an operational review of income-generating housing assets and investment management.

“In line with the governor’s vision for economic transformation, the county government of Kisumu intends to establish a sustainable investment plan for developing and improving revenue collection from housing estates,” said Mr Wanga.

The current working class are going for newly designed houses equipped with the latest appliances such as solar-powered showers, wardrobes, cabinets and open kitchens synonymous with global standards, a move that is slowly killing the old estates.

Residential areas

Lolwe and Polyview are among the residential areas that have emerged over the years. 

Polyview was once known as Makasembo cemetery grave or ‘makaburini’.

Many people were reluctant to go and live near the cemetery. However, the place now has many residential flats. 

Other new estates in the city are Translake, National Housing, Ogango, Elgon, High-rise, Ruby Courts, Grace Ogot, Barack Obama, Makuti area along Kisumu-Kakamega Road, and Winam square estates.

Because of the upcoming estates in Kisumu, the once posh estates like Milimani, Kenya Re, Robert Ouko, Okore, Mosque, Tom Mboya and Mountain View have lost their prestige.

The city’s growth is being witnessed on the outskirts of the city. Many Estates have sprouted in Riat, Kibos, Nyamasaria, Airport area and Obambo suburbs.

Mr Joshua Nyamori, an advocate of the High Court welcomed the idea of improving the estates saying this will make the city have modern infrastructure and increased revenue.

“Now that the public sector doesn’t have enough resources to carry out such activities, partnerships with the private sector are the way to help raise revenue,” said Mr Nyamori.