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Poor planning slams brakes on Kisumu facelift

By Noven Owiti
Friday, October 18th, 2019

Real estate developers in Kisumu have raised concern over the inadequacy of the current physical plan and are worried that prolonged land tussles have impeded a facelift. The proposed project to redesign Kisumu city’s physical plan, developers say, will boost the property sector. However, the current plan, drawn by the defunct municipal council is not favourable. Areas of concern are poor and strained drainage and sewerage system in areas with potential for further development.

Currently, the sewerage system covers just 16 per cent of the town. However, Kisumu Water and Sanitation company (Kiwasco) in its strategi plan 2017-2022 launched recently plans to extend it to cater for 40 per cent of the town’s needs

Kisumu city manager, Doris Ombara blames rogue planners and poor workmanship as factors that have led to the growth of irregular developments in undesignated areas. However, with the new initiative by Kisumu City Board meant to reorganise Kisumu’s lakefront, stakeholders are foreseeing positive trends likely to redefine its real estate business.

Kisumu county Physical Planning, Housing and Urban Development Executive, Dixon Obungu said reviewing the document will ensure proper planning, particularly for new developments as well as deal with cases of sprawling illegal buildings. “The new model will transform Kisumu’s property development sphere. There will no longer be buildings where they are not designated,” says Obungu.

Little expansion space

He says the new Kisumu master plan is projected to be ready by end of March 2020, when a consortium of three companies working on the city redesigned plan will hand in its final report.

Currently, Obungu says, the team has given out an inception report, which is being used for analysis of the city status before a final plan is drawn to envision how the city will be in a few years. The process, he points out, will require adequate stakeholders’ engagement at every stage. 

The town will be zoned into five strategic zones including the Central Business District (CBD), the waterfront (about 60 metres from the CBD), middle level estates (areas around the CBD), slum belt and extended areas (areas falling between the slums and the city).

The city boss says modification of the town plan will help control developments as well as ensure proper planning for better service delivery to residents. 

“This project will help us know exactly the type of buildings needed in each area,” says Ombara. 

Cytonn Real Estate 2018 survey on Kisumu pointed out unstructured regulations on planning as a leading factor hindering the sector’s growth.

The report revealed that the city was poorly planned, and the current plan was developed by the defunct municipal council in 1974.  It indicated the presence of little clarity on policies guiding the planning; which may lead to mushrooming of slums and reduced land use maximisation.

The study further established lack of space for expansion. It showed residential developments in areas such as Milimani are close to the CBD and hence the city’s commercial hub cannot expand outwards.

Lake Estate Agency Limited director, Nishma Karia, on the other hand, says poor land administration is another serious concern to developers.

Karia says some projects have been delayed by prolonged land tussles.

According to the proprietor, land remains a controversial issue, with cases of forged title deeds, lack of clear land tenure and grabbing highly affecting the sector’s investments. “The endless land disputes are scaring potential investors interested in putting up developments. We need proper mechanisms to rectify the situation,” says Karia.

She claims that in some cases, unregulated land agents collude with officials at the lands offices to swindle unsuspecting buyers of their hard-earned money.

Land tenure system

Karia proposes that systems be automated to avoid cases of manipulation and double issuance of titles.

Luke Madende, a land valuer at Roack Consult Limited concurs, saying lack of proper land tenure systems is hurting development in the sector.

For instance, Madende points out, many county governments have deliberately shied away from having proper asset registers with regard to land and buildings since inception of the devolved units in 2013. 

“The main problem is confusion in land administration where clear government policies are flouted for quick gain by some sector players through double and illegal allocation of titles,” he explains.

The Cytonn report indicates only 63 per cent of the land parcels in Kisumu have genuine title deeds and that many buyers have been swindled or settled on parcels belonging to other people, leading to landowners losing property. 

The trend has also made investors wary of investing.

Members of Kisumu County Assembly last year passed a law proposing mass survey of land within the county to help streamline land ownership.

Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o has constituted a task-force on land matters to investigate irregular, illegal and multiple allocation of public land within the county.