Photo/File  Newly constructed apartments in Hurlingham area of Nairobi. The housing sector has for the last five years experienced a boom that has seen flats replacing single dwelling units at an alarming speed.

Photo/File Newly constructed apartments in Hurlingham area of Nairobi. The housing sector has for the last five years experienced a boom that has seen flats replacing single dwelling units at an alarming speed.  

 

For many decades, living on the western side of the city often felt like being in the countryside where the outdoors are great and fences between households are neatly manicured hedges and not unsightly stone walls.

But that is changing rapidly given the proliferation of apartments into these exclusive neighbourhoods.

The original home owners now have to contend with little or no privacy or, sadly, being forced to move out further from the city.

While the dilemma facing home owners in these areas feels like a choice between two equally unpleasant options, the reality of a growing urbanisation is knocking right on the doors on up-market residential estates.

At stake is the exclusivity that these neighbourhoods promised when the home buyers committed to buy their homes, over 20 years ago, and sadly for them, no amount of money can make up for such a loss.

The most affected are Kilimani, Hurlingham and Kileleshwa suburbs which were originally upper middle to high-end neighbourhoods consisting single family dwellings, which have today been brought down to give way to not only high rise apartments but also to an ever increasing number of new office blocks.

Deficit

A rush for serviced land coupled with a wide deficit of housing, especially homes, has pushed for the redevelopment of several previously exclusive neighbourhoods but some with strong resident associations are putting up a strong fight to oppose the transformation.

Stephen Mutoro, the chief executive at the Kenya Alliance of Resident Association says that the original homeowners have been pushed to move from these inner city estates and the only options left for them are to sell the property or redevelop it themselves.

“Residents have been pushed to either shape up or ship out,” said Mutoto, adding “Their privacy has been compromised by these new developments which have in turn stretched infrastructure in the said areas to the limit.”

There is not much the resident associations can do to resist redevelopment in these estates, he said, attributing their helplessness to insensitivity and underhand dealings at City Hall – which grants the final approval on any construction activity.

“It is unlikely that a residents association alone could stop the redevelopment of an estate, City Council has the overall responsibility to preserve these neighbourhoods,” Mutoro said.

One resident of Riverside Drive, adjacent to Kileleshwa, says that households in his neighbourhood have been pushed to receive water three days in a week and persistent power outages, owing to the rising population density in the area.

“We are constantly experiencing heavy traffic because roads have not been expanded to cater for the higher population,” said the spokesperson of Pinewood Management Trustees, a residents’ association.

The association has already moved Court to challenge City Hall’s approval of a seven-storey apartment block next to their street of town houses.

Towards the South of Nairobi, the Karen Langata District Association (Karengata) has, in the past, been known to be abrasive in defending the interests of residents of both estates.

The association has, in the past, formed a parallel authority to City Hall which collected rates and taxes from the members to fund the provision of basic services including roads, water and the sewerage system.

Backyard

In cases like the Runda neighbourhood, the concern of the residents has more to do with retaining a closed group of members and resisting the entry of a class of the newly-rich into their backyard where what was previously farmland under coffee is now concrete walls and roofing tiles.

Runda Residents’ Association, perhaps one of the most vibrant, draws its membership from households whose homes fall under two adjacent blocks of land while alienating residents of the upcoming Runda Mumwe estate.

“The membership of our association is limited to members of the original neighbourhood,” said the association’s secretary.

While the developers are aggressively putting up new developments, City Hall is planning to amend the zoning guidelines to allow for the redevelopment of even more estates as part of an aggressive review on the optimal land use within its jurisdiction, in view of the ballooning urban population.

In the planned zoning review, Patrick Odongo – the Director of Planning at City Hall said that the intention is to allow for a higher utilisation of land within Nairobi where the current population exceeds three million.

mmichira@ke.nationmedia.com

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