The March 31 article in the Star by Suleiman Shahbal on Mombasa government’s housing project misrepresented and distorted facts to suit the writer's political interests. The county has a mandate to serve the people, and it is only fair Shabhal gives the government space to deliver on its promises.
The demand for housing in Mombasa stands at 25,000 units per year against an annual supply of 4,000 units, hence an annual shortfall of 21,000 units. This includes not only the quantity but also quality of housing units, resulting in more squatter and informal settlements, overcrowding in homes, increasing pressure on roads, drainages and power supply and a rapidly deteriorating environment.
Mombasa's 12 estates have 3,000 units. The county plans to build more than 26,000 units in our renewal and redevelopment plan. The government recognises housing as a sector that can revitalise the economy. Investing in the sector and related infrastructure and services will improve wealth creation. This would go far beyond the direct investment itself by triggering forward and backward linkages through additional investments in the building materials production, transportation, marketing and jua kali.
When done to acceptable standards and at an affordable cost and combined with essential services, well-planned housing and infrastructure provide dignity, security and privacy to the individual, the family and the community as a whole. Adequate shelter also prevents the kind of social unrest occasioned by depravity and frustrations of living in slums and informal settlements.
To meet the housing demand, the county shall adopt four strategies. These are: providing visionary political, administrative and technical leadership, providing a conducive investment environment in the county, providing housing sector incentives on low-cost housing projects to stimulate greater investment, and entering into mutually beneficial partnership joint ventures with the private sector.
The existing estates and greenfield sites will offer excellent opportunities for the urban renewal and development of modern and affordable housing units. It will also guarantee returns on investment, as these estates and greenfields are located in prime areas adjacent to major highways, offering immense opportunities for development of modern social housing.
The county recognises the crucial role played by the private sector in providing housing and the need for adequate governmental support to the private sector to enhance the provision of housing. It is for this reason the county is adopting a joint venture partnership approach with the private sector for the urban renewal of Mombasa county.
Tenants have been paying minimal rents to the county over a very long period of time, yet they still do not own the houses. Under the current programme, the tenants will now have the opportunity to pay rent to own the houses. The county shall not levy any deposits that will have an initial financial burden on them. Instead, they will be allowed to make payments over a long period of time, until they complete paying the full purchase price of the housing unit, which will be offered to them at the cost of the houses.
Those who intend to purchase the 2nd unit will be given first priority to do so. However, the rate will be equivalent to that being paid by other members of the public. Secondly, the tenants will not be disrupted while the construction is ongoing. The initial plan is to have the houses constructed on the open spaces in the estate to act as decanting sites. Existing tenants will be moved into the new houses as the old ones are demolished to give way for construction of new units.
Where tenants are displaced, they will be given a lump sum relocation rent equivalent to the market rents operating in their geographical area. Those who move shall be allocated the newly constructed houses on a priority basis after construction.
The sites identified for development/redevelopment have plenty of vacant space, where the initial construction will commence without displacing or relocating any existing tenants. The tenants will be given first priority to purchase or rent the new houses to enable them vacate their current old houses, to allow for development of new and additional units.
Public participation forums will be held to create awareness of the project to the tenants and accommodate and address their views on how they would like it to be handled. The county is committed to ensuring these houses are affordable, especially to the social groups with the greatest need.
This vision has nothing to do with my political ambitions. It is for our children and generations to come. Key things to note include: no tenant will be evicted; construction will be in phases, starting with empty spaces in the estates; there will be one developer per estate; developers have bidded in conformity with the Kenya Procurement Act — it's an international bid.
Moreover, the redevelopment is a component of the Urban Integrated Development Plan, which has gone through public participation and stakeholders participation in three years. The plan includes commuter rail, Likoni bridge, water transport, water supply, solid waste management.
All tenants who live in the houses without proper documents, either through inheritance or "goodwill" (i.e., the backdoor way) shall be regularised and the county will deal with the current occupant. Tenants of every estate have three members who will sit in the project committee of their estate for accountability and transparency.
The county shall issue 99 years lease to all the tenants. All estates will be gated to enhance security and keep away grabbers and encroachment. Each estate will have schools, shopping centre facilities, social hall, health facilities, bio digester, water harvesting and children facilities. There will be bed sitters, one-bedroom and two-bedroom houses. There is room for the Muoroto slum dweller at Sh900 and the person who can pay Sh9,000. It is mixed housing.
Ali Hassan Joho is the Mombasa governor