Thousands of Nairobi residents could become homeless should the National Housing Corporation (NHC) effect an eviction notice tomorrow.
Desperate families at Pumwani’s Highrise Phase II apartments live in fear over a long-standing rental dispute with the parastatal.
The residents blame their woes on a dirty game played by the state corporation, which it accuses of allegedly duping them into renting the houses at a rate higher than what had been agreed upon.
The houses were part of the government’s slum-upgrading project in the early 2000s. Located in Majengo slums in Kamukunji Constituency, Phase II has 160 units that were completed in 2005.
Phase I had 274 units initiated in 1991 under former President Daniel arap Moi. The aim of the project was to upgrade the slums and provide low cost, decent housing and infrastructure.
Ms Saumu Saidi, the interim chairperson of the Pumwani Phase II Highrise committee, said they had been informed that rent had been fixed at Sh3,400 for the two-bedroom apartments, double what Phase 1 tenants were paying.
“We were, however, shocked when the allotment letters from NHC said we would be paying Sh11,000, plus other additional charges, bringing the monthly rent to a total of Sh13,000,” she said.
Caught off guard, they refused to leave their slums in protest.
“One early morning in 2005, we were greeted by bulldozers and armed men who flattened our houses. By 6am, we were homeless. We had no option but to move to our allocated houses. We engaged the NHC and they said we would agree on new rates,” said Ms Saidi.
Their acquiescence to this assurance is what has now landed them in trouble.
Ms Rukia Muitate, 50, said they were shocked when they were served with rent arrears of between Sh110,000 and Sh190,000 when they moved in.
“The NHC told us that they had been billing us for the one year that we had refused to move into the houses since they had a loan to service with our rent. Are we the ones to pay for government slum-upgrading projects? They should have left us at our old homes,” she lamented.
The protests began over the rates and the matter was taken to court in 2007. They were led by the then chairperson of the committee, Athuman Mponda, who died last Thursday. The matter is still in court.
“Why are they issuing eviction notices yet the case is still in court? Let NHC dare come here on Friday; we will build our mud houses right next to these flats,” Ms Muitate said.
Interestingly, the eviction notice was sent a day after Mr Mponda, the firebrand defender of the tenants, passed on.
“It is evident they (NHC) were informed of his death and knew when to strike. The notice came last Thursday, just as we were heading to bury Mzee Mponda,” said Mr William Onyango, a resident.
Ms Sarah Mukeli, 8o, vowed not to leave the only place she’s called home. “My children and grandchildren know no home other than Majengo. We were assured by the government that they were improving our lives; we gave up our homes. Where do they want us to go?” she posed.
Tenant purchase terms
NHC acting managing director Patrick Bucha said the residents were offered the units at an agreed price of Sh1.1 million on tenant purchase terms.
“This was to be paid at a monthly rate of Sh10,996 (inclusive of service charge). The necessary agreements were duly executed between NHC and the individual allotees. Soon thereafter, some of the allotees defaulted in servicing their loans,” Mr Bucha said.
NHC added that a civil suit, vide Nairobi HCCC No. 17 of 2007, was filed by several defaulters, but it was dismissed on May 22, 2018. The court issued a decree in favour of NHC on June 11, 2018.
“As of September 14, 2021, when the seven days eviction notice was issued, the total outstanding amount from the Pumwani Phase II tenant purchasers stood at Sh245,967,881.97. Out of the 160 tenant purchasers, only 33 per cent are up to date with their payments while 53 per cent each owe the Corporation amounts of over Sh1 million,” he added.
Mr Bucha said the corporation wants to recoup the money to commence the development of Phase III.