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Residents of old city estates in Eastlands not willing to move out

Mr Faraj Mzito sits on a stone outside his house in Ziwani Estate in Nairobi, contemplating his next move.

Mr Mzito is a fourth generation dweller in Ziwani, which is the only home he knows. That is why the recent announcement by the Nairobi County government that tenants in the estate must move to the pave way for the construction of new houses, has left him worried and unsettled.

The house he lives in was owned by his great-great grandparents, who passed it down to his parents, who in turn passed it down to him and two of his siblings.

ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION

However, Mr Mzito, his siblings and their families have to find alternative accommodation to pave the way for the multimillion project that is aimed at using the land to house more people in apartment blocks.

The old houses were built in 1950s, and were once decent dwellings that were home to the late Tom Mboya and former Nairobi mayor Joe Akech.

Those who got the homes first passed them down to the next generation, and with time they became “family property”.

Mr Mzito, 44, says that as the families grew but did not wish to live far from one another, the residents started building corrugated iron sheet extensions to “accommodate a whole family in one compound”.

A trip to the estate recently revealed that the houses accommodate up to eight households, with the parents occupying the main house while their sons and their families live in the extensions.

The residents pay rents of between Sh1,000 and Sh3,000 depending on the size of the house, which is way below those in most city estates.

And that is the reason most residents have lived in the estate for years, Mr Mzito says.

CONSTRUCTION OF EXTENSIONS

As the population grew, the haphazard construction of extensions to accommodate the rising numbers turned the estates into a veritable slum, with garbage and overflowing sewers all over.

For years, the county council also neglected the estates, forcing the residents to maintain them themselves.

PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA
PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA

With the high demand for housing, the residents fear they when the new houses are built, they will be forced to pay higher rent. They also fear that other people mmight take over the houses.

“We would really love to live in a good environment and in modern houses, but we want a transparent process where people who were born and raised in the houses will not end up being displaced,” Mr Mzito said.

Mr Edward Rioba, another resident, complained that the county government planned the project without involving them.

“Both the former county council and the county government neglected the houses although the tenants were paying rent. Sewerage systems have been unattended for many years and the residents have been faithfully repairing the houses. Why is that when they want to roll out the project they want us to move without consideration,” Mr Rioba asked.

BUILD BY THEMSELVES

The residents feel that the county government should give them the designs of the planned project and let them build the modern houses by themselves.

“The fact that we live here does not mean we are poor; we live here because we inherited these houses from our parents. The county government should partner with the residents to develop our estates instead of planning a project without involving us,” Mr Rioba said.

Meanwhile, Mr Michael Wasonga, also a resident, said they fear that it could be a plan to grab the land and allocate it to private developers.

The residents cited two earlier projects, the Muriru Market and the Park Road projects, where residents were ordered to relocate to allow for modern developments but ended up not being compensated.

“We will only move once we are compensated and assured that we will be given first priority to own the homes once they are complete,” said Ms Ruth Okoth from Mbotela estate, which is also set for demolition alongside Old Ngara, Bahati, Mbotela, Makongeni, and Shauri Moyo, among others.

According county government records, Nairobi has an annual housing deficit of 500,000 units while a 2014 Kenya open data survey estimated that 3.14 million people live in Nairobi. Close to 60 per cent of these people live in informal settlements.

By 2020, the population in Nairobi is expected to grow to five million, raising the need for more housing.