Prospective homeowners in Nakuru will have to wait longer before they acquire low-cost houses, as the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the ambitious Naivasha Affordable Housing Project.
The planned construction of at least 2,400 houses, that was to take off in February this year, failed to start following the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
The Nation has now learnt that the more than Sh2 billion project may take longer than anticipated.
However, the Nakuru County Lands, Housing and Physical Planning Executive Frank Mwangi sought to give an assurance that although the project has been delayed, it is on course.
"Despite the delays occasioned by the Covid-19, the project is still on course. The project was slowed down by the Covid-19 due to the measures set by the Ministry of Health to end spread of the disease," Mr Mwangi told the Nation.
He further said that the Nakuru county government is working closely with development partners, including the World Bank, to ensure the construction resumes soon, to have the units delivered by 2022.
"So far, we have in the pipeline more than 2,000 units aimed at addressing the housing shortage in Nakuru. What we want to assure residents is that our dream is valid and we want the housing units delivered as soon as possible. Construction work will begin and be accelerated to meet the housing demand in the region," he said.
The houses will be built under a joint partnership between the Nakuru county government, the World Bank and the United Kingdom.
The World Bank is planning to build one and two-bedroom houses which will be mortgaged to low income earners.
According to Governor Lee Kinyanjui, the Nakuru county government is banking on the project to deliver affordable housing units to workers earning between Sh15,000 and Sh150,000.
"With Naivasha hosting a flourishing multi-billion-shilling horticultural sector, a booming hospitality industry, and fast rising to become a commercial hub in East Africa, obviously, the demand for housing is expected to shoot up. That is why we are speeding up plans to ensure the appetite for housing among the various companies that seek to set up shop is quenched," said Mr Kinyanjui.
Construction of the houses comes at a time when demand for housing in Naivasha is set to rise, as companies set up shop at the planned Naivasha Special Economic Zone (SEZ), that will be home to the planned Naivasha Industrial Park and the Inland Container Depot.
Several local and foreign investors have also expressed interest in setting up shop at the SEZ.
The World Bank in 2018 selected Nakuru as the pioneer county for the realisation of the ambitious half-a-million houses project by 2022.
However, the project was also delayed by a land dispute that was later resolved.
The multilateral lender said Nakuru had most of the critical infrastructure needed for the construction.
The houses are set to be built on 55 acres of land (about 22.4ha) in Naivasha on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, sandwiched between the Naivasha GK prison and the Panda flower park.
Nakuru has emerged as one of the most attractive investor destinations with key multi-billion-shilling projects under way or in the pipeline.
Besides the Naivasha Inland Container Depot, an industrial park will be established near Mai Mahiu and is expected to draw both local and international companies to the region.
Other projects in Nakuru include the upgrade of the Lanet military airstrip into an international airport and refurbishment of the Nakuru-Kisumu old metre railway line.
Last year, the county government reclaimed land meant for the housing units which had been grabbed, paving the way for the project to kick off.
Nakuru is among 23 counties that have provided land for the affordable housing programme.
Nakuru has been grappling with housing shortages for years.
Nakuru county, whose headquarters Nakuru town, for instance, is set to become a city, still has insufficient housing despite efforts to address the shortage.
There is a shortfall of both residential and commercial units.
According to a 2016 report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, Nakuru requires at least 10,000 housing units to meet the current demand.
However, only about 3,000 units are available.