It was a dream come true for many. They were all smiles as they received the keys to their new houses.
It was not just an exodus from Egypt to Canaan, as it was described, but also a transition from flying toilets to ones that can be flushed.
However, a year later after 821 families moved into their new houses, it has emerged that half of them might have returned to the slums, just across the road.
Our visit to Soweto Zone A house project, baptised Canaan Estate, in Kibera revealed that just half of those who bought the houses from the Government initiated scheme live there.
The other half either bought or are renting from the initial owners. And this is done sometimes as a local arrangement, in hush tones and with the ‘right connections.’ This was confirmed by Julius Odawo, chair of the first phase of the Government slum upgrading project.
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Odawo, however, said when it comes to such arrangements, the estate management is not involved at all: “That is up to the owner of the house and the one who wants to rent it.”
Just outside the gate of the five-acre estate, we met Christopher Kamau. When we visited him last year, the 62-year-old was so ecstatic to get the keys to his two bedroom house. He, however, contemplated renting it out to make more money.
And Wednesday, he was still in his mud-walled makeshift structure located just at the estate’s gate. The structure does not only act as his house (which he shares with ducks) but also his business premise.
“I gave the new house to my children. You see, they are in a position to pay the required Sh5,000 every month as mortgage,” he said.
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He added that at his age and due to his ill health that has left him with swollen feet, he is more comfortable where he is than climbing stairs every now and then. It was the same case inside the estate that houses 21 blocks comprised of bedsitters, one and two bedrooms.
Not everyone in Canaan is the original owner. Purity Gakii is one of the beneficiaries who has rented in the estate. She pays Sh15,000 every month for her one-bedroom, which doubles up as a business premise.
“In total it is Sh16,000 because I pay Sh1,000 as service fee for the estate,” she said.
For Gakii to be paying Sh15,000 rent means the owner of the house is making a profit of Sh10,000. According to the contract of the mortgage, those who wished to purchase the houses were asked to save at least ten per cent of the actual price. The savings were the requisite conditions for one to be given the keys.
At the time, a bedsitter was going for Sh600,000, Sh1 million for a one-bedroom and Sh1.35 million for a two bedroom. But the payment period being 25 years, pushes the resultant price of the mortgage to almost Sh800,000 for a bedsitter, Sh1.4 million for a one-bedroom and Sh1.8 million for a two-bedroom. As per one’s savings, it may cost you between Sh4,600 and Sh6,000 as monthly mortgage.
This is why some owners have opted to rent out the house and make thrice their monthly mortgage payments but still stay in the villages.
“Trust me, people here do not just rent out but also sell the houses. Right now, a one bedroom house here can cost you Sh2.5 million,” Gabriel Muli tells us.
The challenge, he says, is to change the ownership details at the ministry. For this to happen, one must make sure that he or she has the mortgage cleared.
“So if one is selling a house inclusive of the mortgage then a one bedroom will go for even Sh3.1 million,” he added.
One such case is that of Elizabeth Nthenya who pays Sh5,000 as mortgage but through a relative of hers.
“He did not have the money to keep on servicing the mortgage. You know it is better to give such an opportunity to a relative instead of just selling off the house to a stranger,” she said.
Mr Muli further directs us to his next door neighbour. He also stays in a one-bedroom and his plan, was to rent the house out but he says people went to an extent of asking for the buying price. In the house, several modifications have been done that the one-bedroom house has become a two-bedroom.
This is from the ground floor balcony that has been grilled and covered with windows to create a small children’s bedroom.
Other modifications include kitchen and corridor cabinets, bedroom wardrobes, and sparkles white tiles with blue flowers to cover the rather dull red oxide floor. At one point, Muli says, his neighbour was renting the house for Sh30,000 a month, but he later changed his mind and chose to move in because it was ‘so nice.’
The same modifications have been made by Monicah Nyamane. She said her reason for making the modifications is because the houses are small.
“You see, I cook from my verandah and my balcony is where my grandchildren sleep when they visit me,” she said.