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Ngara Estate Loses its Shine

Ngara Estate in Nairobi
Ngara Estate in Nairobi. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG 

In the 80s, Ngara was a middle-class estate. It was clean, there was ample playgrounds and parking spaces and the sewerage system was working.

Ngara is now less appealing even to investors, as hundreds of hawkers crowd the streets, and kiosks and makeshift garages mushroom on access roads.

The estate has deteriorated as others located near the central business district such as Upper Hill, Parklands and Westlands sprout with skyscrapers. Property prices also have stagnated and a number of buildings are vacant.

Charles Ng’ang’a, a marketing executive at Hass Consult says the presence of street families and property owners from the 70s clinging onto their old buildings without developing them has eroded the value of most the properties.

“There is no residents or owners association in place to restrict the informal businesses, extension of the downtown spreads into Ngara, street urchins are thriving there and a low-income estate mentality is crippling Ngara. The association, if it was in place, can dictate the way housing is done in the area, restoring the 70s feel that gave Ngara the middle-class status, which impressed investors,’’ says Mr Ng’ang’a.

He adds that investors also shy away because there is no restrictions on hawking and more routes are being encouraged, besides the Ngara bus terminus, as the county aims to decongest the city centre.

Rajesh Patel, a property owner and resident in Ngara blames the reluctance by the county government, saying that if security is restored, the estate may regain its status.

“Something must be done urgently because in terms of class and age, Ngara should be ranked together with Parklands and Westlands. Actually, Ngara should do better since it’s the nearest to town from this side. But it’s terrible, even Nairobi West from the other side of town is doing far better than us,” he says

Rents have remained low, attracting low-income earners and university students living in old buildings sitting on large tracks of land. For instance, a one bedroom apartment ranges from Sh15,000 to Sh19,000 on average, whereas in Parklands and Westlands the same house would fetch higher rents. Commercial buildings and newly constructed houses also lie vacant for months.

Even as moneyed Asians snap up buildings in Parklands and turn them into high-rise buildings they have shunned neighbouring Ngara where a three-bedroom house costs as low as Sh15 million.

Alternative

But as low house prices cut owners' profits, some have converted their homes into one-room shared hostels, attracting students who go to University of Nairobi, Technical University of Kenya, among other satellite colleges located in the CBD.

A shared room of four costs Sh7,000 a month while bed-sitters range from Sh10,000.

“We don’t fear the ‘chokoras’ {street urchins} We co-exists nicely. Ngara has cheap accommodation and it takes about 10 minutes to walk to school. But after school, we will graduate to the other end of the city,” said Mark Okello, an engineering student at the University of Nairobi who stays in a hostel.

In the good old days, residents used to walk to Ngara from town but now even the students doing evening class are at risk as thugs roam from the Globe Cinema Roundabout, to adjacent Kipande Road, towards Ngara.

“We take solace that as students we are just visiting here, after graduation and getting a decent salary then the first thing is to relocate,” says John Makori, a student at a tertiary college in town who stays at Ngara men’s hostel.

Mr Thiong'o says that Ngara can be optimised by building high-rise apartments.

Proper planning of a designated market, stalls and doing away with informal hawking on the roadside, decongesting the bus terminus and building wider roads to reduce traffic would woo real estate investors to Ngara.

@ke.nationmedia.com

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