Kenya: Sonko, Badi in Fresh Clash Over Council Houses

An aerial view of a section of Nairobi's skyline (file photo).
3 November 2020

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) Director-General Mohamed Badi are headed for yet another clash on rent waivers for council houses.

Over a week ago, Governor Sonko waived rent for tenants living in houses belonging to the county government for six more months, but the directive is now in limbo with Major-General Badi saying that such a declaration is beyond the governor's purview.

Mr Sonko said the decision was taken to cushion residents from the negative economic impacts of Covid-19, which has resulted in loss of jobs and income with Nairobi being the worst-hit by the pandemic. Mr Sonko accused Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and NMS of harassing vulnerable city residents over rent arrears despite the current economic crisis.

"Pursuant to my earlier waiver in April, I do hereby extend the waiver earlier granted for a period of six months from the date of this letter, as our residents continue to recover economically from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic," said the governor in an October 23 letter addressed to acting County Secretary Justus Kathenge.

Transferred function

However, Maj-Gen Badi has refuted the waiver arguing that housing is a transferred function and, as such, Mr Sonko has no authority over council houses.

"The rent waiver issued by the governor is not legitimate because housing is a transferred function, so he has absolutely no authority to waive. And, after all, the agency responsible for collecting revenue is the Kenya Revenue Authority and not the governor," Maj-Gen Badi said.

The new development could now throw into a spin the latest waiver directive issued by City Hall, which followed concerns raised by Kenyatta Golf Course/Woodley MCA Mwangi Njihia over constant harassment and threats of eviction of tenants due to rent arrears.

17,000 houses

The county has 17,000 houses in Maringo, Uhuru, Kaloleni, Jericho, Buruburu, Kariobangi South, Ziwani and Jerusalem whose tenants pay between Sh2,000 and Sh20,000 monthly as rent depending on the location.

Some of the rent arrears dates back to the time of the defunct Nairobi City Council.

In March 2019, the then Nairobi Housing director Marion Rono disclosed to the County Assembly's Budget and Appropriations Committee that City Hall was owed Sh224 million in rent by the tenants.

And in April the same year, Governor Sonko waived Sh172 million rent arrears to end cases.

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