Prices of plots and the cost of renting business premises and houses are rising as construction works of Nairobi’s Southern bypass gets underway in Kikuyu town. The Southern bypass, expected to cost about Sh17.5 billion, will link heavy traffic flow on the Mombasa Road near the Ole Sereni Hotel running along the Nairobi National Park fence across Lang’ata Road into Karen-Lang’ata estates to Kikuyu town to join the Nairobi-Nakuru highway at Rironi near Limuru.
The 28.6km road is expected to cost Sh17.5 billion. Although the bypass threatens to flatten some buildings in Kikuyu town, residents are hopeful that once completed, it will transform the town’s economy. Already, real estate and industrial activities in this small town have started to pick up, with land prices shooting up considerably as developers cash in on changing fortunes.
Stanley Kamau, business development manager at Fairway Realtors Limited in Kikuyu town, has watched Kikuyu transform into a vibrant town in the last seven years. “There has been a shift in Kikuyu town as more and more real estate developers have shown interest in tapping into the potential of the town. This has resulted in an increase in the number of rental properties under construction,” he says.
Fairways Realtors deals in real estate development and property management. He attributes the trend to changes in attitudes of local land owners who are now willing to sell land and relocate somewhere else where they can buy bigger chunks of agricultural land. There is also an increasing interest from commercial investors who have begun constructing factories and commercial buildings in the area.
Kamau says prices went up even before construction of the bypass started but after investors discovered that the bypass would pass through Kikuyu town. “Developers started moving in and buying land but some of them are now selling,” he says. Three years ago, a quarter of an acre was going for between Sh1 million and Sh1.2 million but is now going for Sh6 million and over. “Everybody was buying and the prices really shot up,” says Kamau.
But now some are selling again after they discovered that its not that rosy this is because at some point the road is passing above the plots and there is no way access road like in Thogoto which might not benefit as much. In areas where developers have already bought large chunks of land, some residents have been forced off their land by the lack of privacy and chosen to relocate.
The setting up of manufacturing plants like Aquamist, Sigona Waters, Bata and Steel Rolling Mills has created jobs for locals and boosted the status of the town. It has now become the norm for an individual working in the capital to live in Kikuyu because of the vibrant 24-hour public sector transport and affordable housing. In Kikuyu, a bedsitter costs between Sh6,000 and Sh7,000; a one-bedroom unit goes for Sh10,000 to Sh12,000 while a two-bedroomed house ranges between Sh18,000 and Sh20,000.
And due to proximity to Nairobi and just like other towns neighbouring the city, Kikuyu town is a dormitory town. It is a only a 30-minute drive from Nairobi unless traffic is heavy. “The food we consume is bought directly from farmers in Wangige Market eliminating the costs of middlemen. This means food is cheaper. Kikuyu has good houses with good finishes at affordable prices. Where I stay I pay Sh10,000 for a one bedroomed house, water and garbage collection inclusive, and this helps me save on living costs,” says Judy Muthoni who lives in the town.
While many choose to capitalise on the gains of increasing land prices, others – especially those near the Southern bypass – are opting to wait. “The residents have become aware of the potential of the land near the bypass. This has made them refuse to sell to developers in the hopes of getting a higher price once the bypass is complete. Others have embarked on sub-dividing and selling the land in small portions, some of which cannot allow a sizeable development to take place,” Kamau explains.
However, the town lacks space for expansion as it was not well planned, its sewer system is poor and at times sewerage breaks out in the open. Developers are now being forced to use the little available space to build storey buildings. The Kiambu County government has halted change of user of the land in the area, forcing developers to wait. “We would like county government to reconsider the change of user as developers are really affected.
Image Credit: John Karume Source: The People