Residents’ hope, fear over Mombasa housing project

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020 00:00 |
An aging building in Mombasa’s Tudor Estate. Photo/PD/Ndegwa Gathungu

When the Mombasa county government unveiled the ambitious Integrated Strategic Urban Development Plan dubbed Mombasa Vision (MV) 2035 in 2016, it was evident it would “transform the county into a vibrant world-class commercial hub by re-developing the haphazardly organised city into a world class city”.

In the development plan’s blueprint, there was the Sh200 billion housing component which the county had envisioned to deliver affordable, modern housing units and that would convert Mombasa tenants to home owners.

The plan was to rehabilitate old estates such as Khadija, Buxton, Changamwe, Tudor, Likoni, Nyerere, Kaa Chonjo, Tom Mboya and Mzizima to provide “approximately 20,000 modern and affordable housing units for the residents.”

However, four years later, the ambitious plan has just remained on paper. In October 2018, there was hope the project was finally taking off after the county started issuing vacation notices to tenants in some of the old estates.

But after back and forth in court orders, nothing has been forthcoming.   

This was until August 16 when there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Just like in 2016, this year, there is a lot of hype, characterised by colourful displays of graphics and designs of the new Buxton housing project to be implemented at a cost of Sh6 billion.

The project, expected to house up to 10,000 residents, is one of the first fruits of the political handshake between Mombasa governor Hassan Joho and his 2013 political rival, Suleiman Shahbal.

While Joho seeks to use the project for his legacy, Shahbal, whose company won the tender to implement it appears keen to use it in his bid to succeed Joho in 2022.

But on the flipside, there is anxiety and uncertainty among residents of Buxton which was selected to pilot the project in January 2021 at a cost of Sh6 billion.

Their worry has been worsened by recent threats by the Mombasa governor who has vowed to use all the machinery at his disposal to implement it.

But its implementation which will see eviction of over 500 tenants inhabiting the old and dilapidated houses has continued to raise eyebrows. Chai Mbaru, a Buxton resident who has lived in the area for the last 36 years is among the worried lot.

The mode of compensation and repayment of mortgages to acquire the new units is the biggest problem for him.

The casual labourer says, 90 per cent of the tenants are poor, and paying the mortgage will be nightmarish for them. He lives in a two-bed room he acquired from his father in 1986.

“I have lived here since 1986 and I have managed to get a family here, I have a two bed-roomed house which I own, if they want us to vacate let them increase the compensation money because it’s too little under the current market status,” Mbaru added.

Mbaru said the tenants are kept in the dark even as tendering of the project was done without their notice adding that the developer should list the genuine beneficiaries before ground breaking the project.

About 150 tenants are employees of Mombasa county government while 350 are private tenants who own the old units within the Buxton estate.

A survey by People Daily established that some of the tenants pay as little as Sh4,000 for a one bedroom house, and Sh2,000 for a bedsitter making it the cheapest cost within town.

This means in the event they are evicted, many of them will be unable to pay rent in the island where the cost of a bed-sitter goes for between Sh6,500 and Sh9,000, while a one bedroom house goes for between Sh10,000 and Sh15,000.

“Many of us are very poor, if we are given the Sh240,000 compensation, I don’t see us being able to pay for the new houses we are promised because this means to buy a Sh1.8 million bed sitter, we will be required to pay a lot of money every month,” Mbaru added. 

Buxton estate tenants through Mbaru, who is the association chairman, have vowed to block the project should the developer fail to list genuine beneficiaries when the project is over.

“What we want are genuine residents of Buxton to be publicly listed so that we can avoid intruders.

We also want to be fully involved in every activity of the project, including benefitting from economic benefits during its development,” Mbaru said.

Mary Riziki, another granny who owns a one bedroom house at the Buxton estate, has welcomed the project, but demanded transparency in the compensation process which is due to kick off immediately after completion of the public participation process.

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