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Grabbed Mavoko land stalls housing project

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 23 – A Sh5 billion housing development deal between Iranian investors and the National Housing Corporation (NHC) has gone sour due to a disputed 70 acres of grabbed government land.

The Ministry of Housing acknowledged recovering about 30 of the 70 acres grabbed in Mavoko, but that 25 acres belonging to the Iranian investors is still in contention and subject of a court case.

Speaking to journalists following a stakeholders meeting on Wednesday, Housing Minister Soita Shitanda said the land had been grabbed in 2008 by private developers when the Ministry failed to secure a title deed in 2007.

“In Mavoko we had 250 acres. Seventy acres was grabbed when we went to elections (2007). We tried to repossess, so the grabbers moved to court. About 25 acres was identified for the Iranians to do a 2,000 housing unit project,” he said.

Failure by public institutions and government departments to secure title deeds for the land they occupy has contributed to the rampant grabbing that has been witnessed in the recent past, the Minister added.

The 250 acres in Mavoko was designated for various projects including government houses and an Appropriate Building Technology Center for East and Central Africa set to be completed in January.

The Minister also revealed that there is more grabbed land in the Kileleshwa, Upper Hill and Lavington areas meant for senior civil servant housing, which he said has further frustrated the Ministry’s housing delivery plans.

“Almost all government land in those areas was grabbed. We don’t have any government land left. We have about Sh4 billion we wanted to do houses for senior civil servants,” he said.

As a result the Minister said purchasing land in Nairobi, or finding alternate plots to build on will be the way forward to ensure civil servants receive housing.

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Shitanda went further to say he does not rule out collusion between government officers and grabbers, but warned of stern action if any are exposed.

“Some of the land was actually grabbed by civil servants of that time especially in Nairobi, but where we discover that a civil servant is involved in any way, we’ll sack them on the spot,” he said.

The issue of irregular alienation of government land by unscrupulous private developers, Shitanda said, has caused for the current trend of demolitions that have so far occurred in Syokimau, Eastleigh and Kyangombe.

“Private developers who have shamelessly encroached on public land sold it to unsuspecting innocent Kenyans who have invested heavily in some of this land. These alienations have caused the government to revoke several titles and demolish some of the developments,” he said.

Uncoordinated land use, planning and development has been a major challenge for the Housing Ministry as well leading to incompatible developments, which Shitanda warned should be addressed before the onset of the devolution process to avoid replication in upcoming counties.

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