NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 7 – Two years ago driving along the busy Nairobi-Mombasa highway, dry and deserted land was a main feature save for new companies that were housed in the various commercial buildings.
Between the area around the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Athi River Town, activity seemed to be concentrated around Mlolongo Town due to the weigh bridge.
But this is fast changing, thanks to the ongoing renovation and expansion of the Mombasa Road, businesses and residential blocks continue fighting for space. Currently, the battle seems to have been won by the demand for better and affordable housing considering the high number of residential areas which have and continue coming up along Mombasa Road especially along the stretch to Athi River.
At the same time those also laughing all the way to the bank seem to be the plot owners who according to various land valuers have made a killing in the last one year as investors rushed in to buy land to construct a mix of residential and commercial property.
An acre plot along Mombasa Road seems to have doubled its price and is now selling for between KSh8 million and KSh15 million,
According to James Musyimi, a property developer with the Jopa Group – one of the investors who have put up residential blocks along the busy highway – developers quickly shifted their focus to this area owing to the development of this vital infrastructure.
“It’s not just the transport industry that will benefit, it is evident that people want to buy and live in residential areas which are easily accessible, a key factor to anyone searching for a house,” he explains.
Most of the concentration in terms of residential blocks is seen along the less than 20km stretch from Kapa Oil Refineries to Athi River town near Devki Steel Mills.
Mr Musyimi notes that most of the housing units are targeted at middle-to-high income earners who are currently living in some of the city’s old residential areas.
Decongestion issues affecting residential areas close to the central business district is also a big plus to them. “Thirdly, buyers are looking for areas where property value appreciation is likely to be highest in the next three to five years if they decide to sell,” adds Mr Musyimi.
Whether the housing units are referred simply as apartments, semi-detached maissonettes and bungalows or villas, prices here are ranging between KSh3 million and KSh10 million. These palatial homes are characterised by unique designs, extended floor layout plans and high quality finishing.
Mr Musyimi notes that the solar system that most property developers are installing which requires less expenses to that of connecting electricity; is an attractive feature to potential buyers considering the high power bills. Some of the property developers have also put in mind necessary amenities and set aside space for shops, schools as well as plenty of open areas for play-parks.
However, according to some industry analysts, to ensure that such dreams do not become nightmares, lessons from past mistakes should be prioritised. This includes developing a master plan for the entire area (around Mombasa Road). “The beautiful estates which have come should be preserved with strict enforcement of laws controlling extensions and informal settlements,” advises John Mwirigi, an independent lands surveyor.
Other factors to consider include the installation of public infrastructure including water and sanitation as well as power.
There is an ongoing massive construction on the Namanga junction along the busy Nairobi-Mombasa highway. The contractors are also expanding Mombasa road to a dual carriageway at the Athi River section, while at the same time, raising it to create room for two planned underpasses which according to the government will divert traffic entering or leaving the capital from either Namanga or Eastlands, off the usually busy Mombasa highway.
This, experts believe, will render the heavy traffic jams on Mombasa road every day a thing of the past, saving the nation several man-hours currently lost on the roads.
Both the dual carriageway and the two underpasses will be well-lit to enhance motorists’ visibility.