Senators summon Lands CS, PS over Sh6bn Buxton housing project
Buxton Estate residents narrated how they were duped by the developer of the Sh6 billion housing project in Mombasa, a move that has left them with no place of residence more than two years later.
This as a senate committee summoned Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir, Lands and Housing Cabinet Secretary Zachary Njeru and his Principal Secretary over the controversial project next week.
Appearing before the Senate Roads, Transportation and Housing committee chaired by Kiambu Senator Karungo wa Thang’wa on Wednesday, the estate tenants’ leaders revealed how they were forced to sign termination contracts after being forcefully evicted from their houses.
Buxton Estate deputy secretary general John Tsuma narrated how they were presented with a Sh300,000 cheque to sign under duress without a tenant purchase agreement being provided.
He explained that after the brutal eviction from their houses with bulldozers sent to flatten their houses a day after a court judgment on March 3, 2021, a majority of the tenants were forced to stay in the cold as they had nowhere to go.
Mr Tsuma said the 522 families had been shortchanged.
He argued that according to the resettlement action plan, the tenants were to rent out for 12 months as they waited for the completion of the first phase before being given the first choice to the 586 completed units.
The project description shows that the Buxton redevelopment project involves the relocation of existing tenants, demolition of old housing structures and construction of new housing units in the Buxton estate for outright sale to the general public under the affordable housing government scheme.
However, they later realised they had been duped, alleging that the completed units had been sold to individuals outside the original tenants.
This is in spite of being assured first refusal on the units in the first phase and the Sh60,000 being deducted as deposit to book the units.
He claimed the developer is now selling the completed units on an off-plan for between Sh3 million and Sh4 million for two and three-bedroom units, respectively, set to be settled within one and two years yet that was not part of the agreement.
Mr Tsuma said most of the tenants earn an average of Sh32,000 monthly yet a mortgage plan requires that one must be earning Sh100,000.
But now the tenants, who used to pay a rent of Sh3,700, are being pushed to pay Sh1.2 million exclusive of legal fees and disbursement for a studio apartment and Sh1.8 million for a one bedroom.
“We feel shortchanged as the initial plan was not off-plan. This is not affordable. We feel we were duped about the project,” said Tsuma.
“We want the 522 families given the 586 units already completed under a tenant purchase scheme. We want a guarantee that we will be back to Buxton,” he added.
Deputy chairperson Soul Al-Kasha added that they had problems with the manner the project is being implemented as no clarity given how the tenants were to get back.
He pointed out that the issues they raised against the project were ignored during the public participation as the process was cosmetic with no follow up meeting ever being held since the public participation.
“Our issues were not well captured during the public participation. Our right to decent housing and our right to appeal were infringed on,” said Mr Al-Kasha.
Mr Al-Kasha also said they want compensation for property destroyed during the forceful eviction as well as the rent they have paid for the extra months they have had to rent out.
“We want Buxton tenants to get what they were promised. We have already rented out for more than two years so we need to be compensated,” he said.
Nominated Senator Miraj Abdulrahman said the tenants were forcefully evicted with the clause on the tenants being given the first right on the units violated.
“The first phase units have been sold to rich individuals and not the original tenants. Was this project meant to be an affordable project to the rich or the tenants?” she posed.
Kilifi Senator Stewart Madzayo added that the evictions were done in an inhumane manner despite the existence of a court order.
Mombasa Senator Mohamed Faki said: “This is the second time the petitioners are coming to the Senate with no solution being found. The residents feel shortchanged as they were to be given priority once the first phase of the units had been completed.”
Senator Thang’wa said the committee will look into the matter to completion and ensure the rights of the tenants are taken care of.