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Kakamega realtors want review of town plan to spur growth

By Noven Owiti
Friday, August 20th, 2021 00:00 | 4 mins read
An aerial view of Kakamega town. Photo/Noven Owiti

Kakamega real estate agents are rooting for a review in implementation of the town’s planning model, saying it remains integral in promoting the industry’s growth.

Speaking to Boma, the sector players said lack of proper planning for the Western region town has been hampering its growth aspirations over the years, while stressing the need to fine-tune the current planning model to rejuvenate the development plan.

They decried that irregular implementation of spatial plan development by the county government is also hurting the industry’s growth prospects.

A physical plan model developed and approved by the county government in 2018 sought to address infrastructure, water and electricity connection challenges, as well as promote legislative legal framework on tenure systems, especially in informal settlements.

The plan whose implementation runs for a period of 20 years is also geared towards addressing the spatial, social, economic, cultural, environmental and governance aspects of the town.

Under the infrastructure segment, the plan was meant to improve the road network to bitumen status and ensure proper drainage in residential areas, including the informal settlements in Amalemba, Maramu, Masingo, Majengo and Makaburini. 

The mapping and planning area, including satellite villages around Kakamega town covers 123 square kilometres.

New strategic plan

Similarly, Kakamega municipality recently launched  a new strategic plan seeking to streamline the town’s development.

The county Lands, Housing, Urban and Physical planning executive Robert Makhanu revealed that the plan has been approved and is due for implementation soon.

He says the 2021-2025 strategic plan crafted with the help of consultants will define where specific development projects can be put up, thus giving a clear zoning on commercial, industrial and residential areas.

The Kakamega municipality planning model’s objective seeks to rationalise transport and traffic management, affordable housing, water and sanitation, town planning, social protection and security.

“The plan has incorporated all functions of a city taking in consideration the boundaries and actual population,” he says.

However, the entrepreneurs are skeptical about the success of the planning model, while expressing concerns that its improper  execution has created a lot of gaps.

They have raised concerns in the manner in which the plan is being implemented, indicating that the process has left several underlying challenges, especially in the real estate industry.

Ben Mbato, a property investor in Kakamega cites poor land administration and uneven developments as some of the issues leading to uncontrolled development in and around the town.

He also blames ineffective implementation of planning policies to the drawbacks dogging the town’s growth prospects.

“What is happening on the ground is not alive to the established plan. People are putting up developments anywhere without following proper structures, which is a bad indicator on the development blueprint going forward,” he says.

To correct the anomalies, he underscores the need for proper planning in the town and areas around it, stating that Kakamega town is on a gradual growth pathway, which should be backed by a well-choreographed system. This, he says, will inspire confidence in investors coming to put up projects in the town.

“There is a need for regulations in place to indicate how developments are done. Currently, there is no controlled development hence people build haphazardly,” Mbato says.

Speculative tendencies

He says the absence of proper valuation on land use is encouraging speculative tendencies in land prices in the town and its environs, hence rising in property costs.

As a result, people sell land based on their various problems and not on specific standardised valuation of the plots. “Land management issues remain erratic in Kakamega.

There is no guidance on valuation and transactions and this is creating room for unregulated brokers to control activities in the sector,” he explains.

David Mwangi, a property developer in the town conquers, saying its planning systems should be reviewed to support necessary growth.

Mwangi cites land ownership as a major drawback derailing the development of Kakamega town.

He states that huge chunks of land in the  town is owned by the government, a situation that has limited opportunities for development in those localities.

For instance, the real estate investor says nearly 90 per cent of Milimani estate in Kakamega town is owned by the state, thus remain underdeveloped for  decades, despite their ability to attract relatively superb property developments.

“The biggest chunk of land in the town, which constitutes the growth nodes, is owned by the government and this is hindering development ambitions,” he says.

Mwangi notes that some government departmental offices and institutions also sit on prime land areas, which are potential for implementing development projects.

Such lucrative zones, he says, can be allotted for use by investors to promote growth.

He says another larger portion of land sitting adjacent to the town’s peripheries is majorly owned by locals who  sell at exaggerated prices, thus correspondingly impacting on the overall property values, slowing down growth of the town.

Further, Mwangi points at imbalanced sewerage connectivity as another problem attached to the planning gaps. He says a big part of the town is not connected to the sewerage system posing a challenge to property developers.

“We need better collaborations between the national and county governments and developers on how to open up the town for further growth,” he says.

Marian Properties Ltd director Peter Juma  points out that absence of an appropriate planning model in Kakamega town had led to overpricing of land values.

“There  have been slow processes in implementing the spatial plan for accurate and appropriate planning models in real estate and this is among the challenges the sector is grappling with,” says Juma.

Going forward, the real estate dealers said proper implementation of the spatial plan will be pivotal to the industry’s growth within the town as proper planning will inspire confidence among investors.

Juma says prudent implementation of the plan will provide an indicator on land development direction, thus help to weed out cases of land overpricing.

Prospective investors

Similarly, the businessman says implementation of the outlined plan should be able to give direction to prospective investors on where to build specific projects.

He states that with proper guidelines in place, developers will be able to put up projects in designated areas where the county government has installed necessary infrastructure. 

“We expect rigorous implementation of the plan to provide clear guidelines on the development aspects.

People  will be able to know which direction development is taking and this will largely inform investors on the suitability of their projects,” he explains.

He adds: “Developers will be well informed what projects they can put up at which locations.”

Mbato recommends that the Kakamega county government keenly implements the town’s outlaid planning model and develop policies that regulates land use and property development.

“Developers put up projects with the projection of the future in mind. The fact that the town is poorly planned has discouraged some prospective investors interested in putting up properties in Kakamega,” he says.

Noven Owiti