Poor infrastructure in Kilimambogo in Thika, Kiambu County, has seen the area remain largely unexploited despite its vast and affordable land.
That notwithstanding, the area has caught the eyes of thousands of investors, among them societies, land companies and individuals.
The semi-arid area is hard to access due to bad roads. Investors such as Kamuthi and Urithi Housing co-operative society, who pumped in millions of shillings hoping the government would improve infrastructure to enable them to develop, have remained frustrated.
“With good roads and other amenities, real estate players will definitely camp in an area they previously shunned.
“Housing projects will definitely attract other developments, leading to unprecedented growth,” said Mr John Mwaniki, director of Jekmas Services, a real estate firm with interests in Kiambu and Nairobi.
For instance, Kamuthi Housing acquired 1,233 acres in 2011 and sold 355-acres to more than 6,000 people in plans for a Sh4.5 billion gated community Buffalo Hills and Golf Village.
However, the project has slowed down, thanks to poor infrastructure.
“Our project suffered major setbacks because the roads to the projects are horrible, and this has discouraged our potential clients and other landowners in the area from developing them. But if the construction of roads was to be done, the problem would be sorted,” says Kamuthi Housing secretary Eliud Njoroge.
Upon completion, the project is expected to have close to 6,000 homes and commercial facilities on eighth, quarter and half-acre plots.
The plan also features a nine-hole golf course covering 108 acres and a clubhouse next to a man-made dam on 9.5 acres, among other amenities.
Another mega project in the area, besides the thousands of individual buyers, is Urithi Housing‘s Sh1 billion 100-acre residential plan dubbed City Edge, which was launched in 2014 comprising 600 housing units, targeting its 6,000 members.
In May 2016, Transport and Infrastructure Cabinet Secretary James Macharia commissioned the construction of Thika Bypass, a 25-kilometre road that links Garissa Road and Thika Superhighway, a kilometre away from Kilimambogo.
Four years down the line, the road, which tens of thousands of investors hoped would open up the area, is yet to take shape.
This has continued to discourage investors, therefore, frustrating the affordable housing agenda.
Another road, which locals hoped would unlock the area is Komu-Mangu Road that links the area to the Thika Superhighway and the proposed Greater Eastern Bypass that transverses Kilimambogo.
In 2016, Kamuthi unsuccessfully tried to partner with Kiambu County to improve the road.
Further efforts have been made to reach out to the authorities and the management of Kamuthi, through its chief executive Harrison Murakaru, wrote to the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura), which is doing the Sh3.5 Greater Eastern Bypass to consider including Kilimambogo in the design.
“We appreciate the initiative which Kura has embarked on to ease traffic on Thika Superhighway through the construction of bypasses and link roads … Komu-Mangu link is of interest to us (Buffalo Hills) as it affects our projects and the livelihoods of many in a big way,” reads part of a letter dated January 13.
Kura, in an internal letter dated March 19 by Ms Jacinta Mwangi, the agency’s deputy director — regional urban road coordination in central, told the acting Director-General that the road serves more than 100,000 households as well as the densely populated Kiganjo in Thika and “therefore provides access to the given households which is in line with the agenda on affordable housing”.
“The cost of the construction is approximately Sh3.5 billion. Drawings and bill of quantities for the same are ready.
The road is approximately 20km and may also serve as a by-pass. This is to request that the road be included in the 2019-2020 budget (sic),” reads parts of the letter which gives a ray of hope.