Covid-19 came as bad news to many but for those who have invested in gated communities, it has turned their investments into cash cows.
Property consultants are reporting a spike in demand for rentals or outright purchases of gated community units since the advent of the dreaded disease, which has since altered living and working patterns.
The barb, experts say, is evident despite the economic downturn in a recent couple of years as occasioned by the ongoing war in Ukraine that further disrupted supply chains after the pandemic decimated trading routes and in the case of Kenya, the just concluded elections.
“At the height of Covid-19, many were forced to stay and work at home,” said Martha Mbote, lead consultant and director at Offshore Properties Investment.
“People realised that with reliable Internet one can work from anywhere, especially consultants such as financial consultants or analysts who do not need to be physically present for an assignment to be undertaken. Gated communities in the peripheries of the city, down at the Coast and Naivasha became an instant attraction and have been ever since.”
Real estate consultants say Covid catalysed this demand for gated communities with more space for each resident.
Other factors fuelling this trend border security, shared service costs and responsibilities, increased adoption of homeschooling and recently, an upsurge in the number of siblings moving their parents closer to where they work and stay to ease the logistics of taking care of them in their old age and also for security purposes.
Michael Otieno, chairman of the Karibu Home Residents Association, reckons that many young families prefer gated communities because of the issue of shared costs and responsibilities in gated communities.
“One of the biggest headaches families deal with is security. Securing property and children is the utmost concern.
“There is safety in numbers and by sharing costs,” said Otieno.
“When one lives in a standalone house on your plot of land, one bears most of the costs. For example, when it comes to security, you may need to employ your askari. And to keep your lawns manicured and watered, you will either do the work yourself or employ someone to do it.”
Property consultants agree that when one lives in a gated community, the residents share the costs of services such as securing the estate, keeping the common areas clean and the environment habitable.
These services are paid in the form of a service charge that is then distributed to individual residents in the process lessening the cost burden.
“All considered, paying service charge works out cheaper than servicing a standalone house,” said Otieno.
Mbote reckons that an increase in requests from siblings whose parents are ageing choosing to move them closer to cities or towns where they reside and where the parents can easily access medical care in the event of emergencies and also for security reasons is also pushing demand for gated communities after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the rural areas exposed the poor health facilities and services.
“On realising the vulnerability of their parent’s health with the pandemic raging, some people started considering moving their ageing parents closer to Nairobi and better health facilities. One of the notable enquiries is for bungalows in areas such as Kitengela, Kiserian, Ngong town and Kang’undo road,” said Mbote.
“These areas are easily accessible and there are decent gated communities, a safe place for ageing parents.”
This trend explains the sudden rise of modest gated communities on the outskirts of Nairobi in areas such as Joska, Malaa, Kamulu, Kiserian, Kitengela, Kikuyu, Ngong, Gitambura, Banana and Juja Farm, among others.
Other areas that have become hotcakes since Covid are gated communities such as Green Park (Great Rift Valley Lodge & Golf resort) were a haven for homeowners.
Hannibal Simba, a real estate consultant, says the increased adoption of homeschooling and the camaraderie among young families has increased the preference for gated communities where different families move in together to certain areas so that their children can play and grow together.
While gated communities are a good idea, the service charge has always been a thorny concern among residents.
New developments in upper-class neighbourhoods such as Kilimani, Kileleshwa, Lavington and Westlands with amenities such as high-speed lifts, rooftop heated swimming pools and world-class gymnasiums, among other facilities charge a premium as a service charge.
Some new high-end apartments have service charges upwards of Sh20,000 a month, which is the same as the rental charges for units in gated communities in the modest parts of the city.
Despite the challenges, experts forecast an increase in the adoption of gated communities.
“This trend will continue much into the foreseeable future. First, because it’s cheaper to offer horizontal infrastructures such as roads, sewer, water and now trunked electricity and internet for a residential estate. Since it’s cheaper to offer shared horizontal infrastructure, developers and affordable housing money will follow because there is more bang for the buck,” said Otieno.