22 October 2018

Kenya: Agony of Property Owners As Seefar Apartments Set for Demolition

You may never understand loss until you talk to Lawrence Mungai, the man who sold his land in Githurai and took a loan to raise enough money to buy a two-bedroom house at Seefar Apartments, the building now facing demolition.

He was unsettled as he pondered his next move. He flashed back to the day when he was convinced to buy a house there. The seller had slashed the prices by Sh1 million for anyone willing to buy a part of the building in cash.

"If they bring down the apartment, I will have to go back to my native village with my family as I am yet to clear the loan," a visibly distraught Mr Mungai said.

SOLD PROPERTY

His story has parallels with that of Ms Bibiana Mulimo, who sold property in Kakamega County to buy an apartment.

"I am yet to even clear paying my mortgage and Nema (National Environment Management Authority) is here threatening to demolish a house they allowed to be constructed? This will be so unfortunate," she said, adding that she has been having sleepless nights since the vacation notice was given.

Nema has given owners of the property -- which was constructed between 2011 and 2014 -- until mid-next month to bring it down.

In Saturday, an association of 287 occupants of the block wondered how a building commissioned by then Housing minister Soita Shitanda can now be said to be sitting on riparian land.

The minister's remarks at the event, they said in a statement by their chairman Otieno Paul-Peter, made many to buy units.

"Seefar Apartments was commissioned by the then minister for Housing Hon Shitanda in July 2014. During the event, he praised the developer and encouraged others to borrow a leaf and emulate Edermann Property Ltd. His statement influenced most home buyers to venture into this development," the residents said.

LIVE NEAR DAM

They said there are more people who live near the dam, questioning whether their buildings would also be demolished.

"If the dam poses any danger at all, then everyone living around it should be protected. Apart from Seefar Apartments, housing estates such as Nyayo Highrise, Dam Estate, Highridge Estate and Akilia Estates stand next to the dam. This obviously cannot be by demolition of the thousands of houses around the dam. If the dam is sick, you deal with the dam, not the neighbour of the dam," the statement said.

Currently, a two-bedroom unit costs Sh6 million while a three-bedroom apartment costs Sh8 million.

The Sunday Nation has learnt that Nema gave out approval licence number 0008382 and the county council issued approval number EZ-840 allowing the developer to go on with the construction.

Seefar Apartments residents are apprehensive that they will suffer the same fate as people who bought property near the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport that was destroyed by government agencies in 2011.

Journalist Luke Mulunda remembers that bitter incident like it was yesterday.

He lost about Sh2 million in a project that had been given the go-ahead by the government, but was later disowned. Numerous other people suffered the same fate.

Mr Mulunda spent Sh500,000 to buy an eighth-acre parcel of land in Katani, Syokimau, then spent more buying materials to construct a four-bedroom maisonette.

'SOLD ILLEGALLY'

"I had done the foundation and had started doing the walling. That's when we heard the news that the land had been sold illegally and they were going to demolish structures," Mr Mulunda said.

"We stopped development and waited for advice from government. Within three weeks, demolitions had began."

He never went to see what had become of his plot when government machinery landed. He has never returned there.

"I could not stand it," he said.

The buyers were agitated. They had received clearance from the local government in Mavoko to develop the plots.

The first sign that their deal with a company called Mlolongo Brothers was a sham was when they did a search at the Lands ministry headquarters and it reflected that the land was the property of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.

They would get some reprieve after a parliamentary committee recommended that they be compensated for the demolished property. But that was just about it.

"From there, nothing has been heard. What these Mlolongo Brothers did is that they went to court. And they always use the excuse of the case being in court; that they can't do anything else," he said.

Now the land lies fallow, but Mr Mulunda says he won't be surprised if other people are sold the land five years from today.

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