STATUS QUO VS CHANGE

Sh6bn Mombasa Buxton housing project faces headwinds

Section of residents now say units will be too expensive for them, want project suspended.

In Summary

• The project, being undertaken by developer Suleiman Shahbal, is to start in January.

• On Sunday, Buxton Welfare Association secretary general Baya Mwanyule said those who attended the public-participation exercise were not genuine residents.

Joab Tumbo, Idris Abdulrahman and Governor Hassan Joho in Mtwapa on Saturday.
CONSULTATIVE: Joab Tumbo, Idris Abdulrahman and Governor Hassan Joho in Mtwapa on Saturday.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO
Nyali MP Mohammed Ali and former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar at the Renaissance Centre on Sunday.
OPPOSITION: Nyali MP Mohammed Ali and former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar at the Renaissance Centre on Sunday.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO
Businessman Suleiman Shahbal and Buxton resident Riziki May on September 3.
ASSURANCE: Businessman Suleiman Shahbal and Buxton resident Riziki May on September 3.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI
Buxton residents during a public-participation exercise on the Buxton Regeneration Project at Tononoka Hall on September 3, 2020.
PARTICIPATING: Buxton residents during a public-participation exercise on the Buxton Regeneration Project at Tononoka Hall on September 3, 2020.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

A group of people claiming to be Buxton residents now say the Sh6 billion Buxton Regeneration Project should be suspended.

Under the project, 500 housing units are to be replaced by 1,86, but the residents say it is too expensive for them.

The project, being undertaken by  the county government, is set to start in January after a three-day public participation exercise that ended on September 5 saw majority of the residents give it a thumbs up. The county has contracted a company associated with businessman and politician Suleiman Shabal. 

 
 

However, on Sunday Buxton Welfare Association secretary general Baya Mwanyule said those who attended the public participation exercise were not genuine residents.

They met Nyali MP Mohammed Ali and former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar, who are to help them petition the courts for suspension.

“The real residents have refused the project. What they called public participation was illegal. Buxton residents are poor and cannot afford the units as proposed,” said Mwanyule at the Renaissance Centre, Omar’s offices where most of his political activities are planned.

Omar is eyeing the Mombasa governor seat and so is Shahbal.

The Buxton estate units, owned by the county, include 150 units for the county staff and another 352 rental or purchasable units.

Currently, they are one- and two-bedroom units for which occupants pay Sh2,800 and Sh3,662 respectively.

Once completed, one-bedroom units will go for Sh1.8 million each, two-bedroom for Sh3 million and the three-bedroom units will go for Sh4.2 million. Bedsitters will go for less than Sh1 million.

 
 

On Sunday, Mwanyule said the residents cannot afford the prices.

“Our ages do not allow us to get mortgages. The youngest person that owns a house in Buxton is 45 years old,” Mwanyule said.

Nobert Aboga, who said he has been a Buxton resident since 1971, noted that at 13 per cent, the interest rates provided by the Housing Finance Company of Kenya is too high.

“For a Sh3 million two-bedroom unit, they want a deposit of Sh600,000. At the 13 per cent interest rate, it requires one to be paying Sh30,366 a month. This requires an income of at least Sh100,000 a month. Who in Buxton earns that much?” posed Aboga.

He called for a Tenancy Purchase Agreement instead.

“We have paid faithfully for all those years. The 500 units should be subsidised. The other units can go for whatever price,” Aboga said.

He said the houses are designed for certain people.

Frere Town MCA Charles Kitula said the project was never discussed in the Mombasa county assembly.

MP Ali described the project as swap deal between two businessmen, citing Governor Hassan Joho and Shahbal.

“If you want to build houses, build house in Moroto, Kambi Kikuyu, Kisumu Ndogo. The slum areas.”

Omar said he opposed the same project in 2013.

“Nothing has changed about the project,” he said.

However, Idris Abdulrahman, the security advisor in Governor Joho’s administration, told off the two politicians, saying they are talking from a point of ignorance.

He said the Regeneration Project will inject Sh6 billion into the Mombasa economy and create opportunities for empowerment of the youth, especially in Buxton.

The youth will be trained in various skills needed for the project and then be employed to work on the project.

“Don’t oppose for the sake of opposing. This is what Joho’s administration has proposed. What options are they putting on the table?

He said after 40 years, the houses in Buxton and other estates are in deplorable conditions and need serious rehabilitation.

Shahbal said change is usually not an easy thing to manage or accept because people are usually fond of their comfort zones.

“We must lose our comfort zones, make necessary sacrifices and usher in an era of change and prosperity. Whoever fights change in Mombasa is an enemy of our people,” he said. 

Shahbal clarified that in 2013, he was opposed to the Sh200 billion project then, because the project had proposed 15-storey buildings, which he said would only make the units vertical slums.

“In 2013 and in 2017, it was part of my manifesto to do this kind of project. Where we disagreed was that I was insisting there had to be proper public participation like we have done,” he said.

He said such kinds of projects have to be properly tendered, something that he says was not the case in 2013.

“I objected to building 15 storeys because our culture does not accommodate that sort of lifestyle. I have seen these 15 storeys in other parts of the world. They become horizontal slums,” Shahbal said.

He insisted that Mombasa needs investments to stimulate it.

“Mombasa needs to plan for its growing population. Our people deserve better living conditions. Importantly, the economy of Mombasa needs heavy capital injection to produce jobs and economic benefits.

“Let’s choose hope over fear, change over comfort and opportunities over opposition,” Shahbal said.

But Omar termed it sad that Shahbal’s idea of investment is when he is the investor.

“This is the problem of installing businessmen in leadership,” he said.

He said there will be change in 2022 in both Mombasa county and the country.

“The new Mombasa county government and the Ruto-led national government will not honour any deal that was improperly done. We will give these residents the houses for free,” Omar said.

“You cannot give us a deal that is far less than what the public deserves.”