Kisii town begun in the 20th century but the economic reawakening is traced back to the 2007/08 post-election violence when residents decided to make it “a haven of peace when the rest of Kenya was up in flames.”
People from all walks of life thus found it a place to live, work and thrive in business, and the town’s population is ballooning each day.
The ripple effect has investors in real estate erecting residential houses into the skylines of the suburbs of Kisii town, prompting any lazy observer to wonder why this is happening in Kisii only and not any other town in South Nyanza region?
Apart from the ‘haven of peace narrative, John Momanyi the Kisii County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Lands, Physical Planning and Urban Development attributes this steady growth to a number of issues, namely; improved road network, street lighting, new offices sprouting in town and beefed up security.
Most importantly, Mr Momanyi characterizes the town’s growth to the aggressive nature of investors and lack of government bureaucracies.
“The situation here has always been willing buyer willing seller. Today if you get an offer to buy a parcel in Nyanchwa Estate at Sh2 million, when you are making arrangements to pay tomorrow, you realize somebody else has paid three million,” he explained.
He added that “investors don’t come to negotiate, they force you to sell because they dangle the money, literally.”
A stone throw away from town is Bonchari Constituency where Mr Momanyi says not long ago land would be purchased in a range of Sh50,000 to Sh100,000. However, today the price has gone through the roof, with a small piece retailing at a million shilling and plus.
The suburbs of Kisii town include Milimani, Nyanchwa, Nyamataro, Soko Mjinga, Daraja Mbili, Mwembe, Jogoo and Nyamage. Others are Nyakoe, Maili Mbili, Nyangena and Gesonso. Like any other town, living in any of these suburbs is determined by social class.
Areas dominated by the town’s first class citizens include Nyakoe, Gesonso, Nyangena and Milimani. Most dwellers of these regions are actually home owners because parcels of land are still available.
Kisii county deputy governor Joash Maangi is reportedly a landlord in Milimani whereas his boss Governor James Ongwae actually owns a residential home in Maili Mbili.
Nyamage estate is dominated by students who study at Kisii university and other colleges in town. One would require as low as Sh2500 per month to live in Nyamage.
Most houses in Nyamage are private hostels that sprouted within the last five years. Majority being self-contained single rooms, also known as bedsitters.
Most middle class citizens, Mr Momanyi says, have been trooping to Nyanchwa estate. Nyamataro is also occupied by middle-class citizens where a lot of the dwellers are employees of the Kisii county government.
According to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, a middle class citizen is anyone who spends between Sh23,670 to Sh999,999 per month.
Majority of workers and small business owners in Kisii town reside in Nyanchwa, Mwembe, Nyamataro and Daraja Mbili.
Mwembe is the most densely populated; because of the workers who reside there and students overlapping from the neighbouring Nyamage.
Put differently, Mwembe is a dwelling place for the certified hustlers of Bosongo. Jogoo estate is another place for the third-class citizens. Most houses in Mwembe and Jogoo are bedsitters or one-bedroom.
On average, a two-bedroom house in most of the suburbs, costs between Sh10,000 to Sh15,000.
In Nyanchwa for example, John Bosire – a tenant, observed that “most houses are two-bedroom costing Sh12,000 a month, and a number of tenants own vehicles.
According to Mr Bosire, Nyanchwa’s proximity to town makes a lot of civil servants prefer the place. Some of the tenants include bankers, lecturers and police bosses.
Soko Mjinga is a slum somewhere between Nyanchwa and Daraja Mbili. Like slums in other towns, rent in Soko Mjinga is very difficult to determine as it all depend on the degree of an individual’s bargain. People of Nubian identity dwell here.
If you are thinking of residing in a home, owning or leasing, then Nyakoe, Gesonso or Nyangena would be your league. Or if you like
Nyakoe is far from the hustle and bustle of town, along the Kisii-Kisumu highway. You will be best placed if you own a car otherwise you will require Sh100 to and from town every day. The same applies to Gesonso, which is along Kisii-Rongo road. Nyangena is almost within town, at the Kisii-Migori Junction.
Paul Getate, a small businessman, however urges the county government to chip in and help regulate the price of housing as he believes that landlords have been extorting and/or charging unattainable amounts of money from poor tenants.
“We the small income earners are finding it tough to live in this town and very soon many people will start living in slum-like conditions. If the county government can control rent it will be a great relief,” he said.
A landlord in Mwembe, Ken Moturi, said that any attempt by government to regulate the sector will curtail their freedom of doing business.
“We as landlords must maximize on profit in order to be able to pay land rates and get value for money. Remember most landlords relied on hefty loans, which they are still servicing,” he observed.
Job Momanyi, a property developer in Nyamage and Mwembe noted: “The amount of rent charged depends on cost of construction whereas the choice of single, one-bedroom and such like depend on the nature of the tenant expected; for instance, most students can only afford single rooms.”
Mr Momanyi added that the real estate business is booming. “For the past five years, there has been rapid growth in town. In fact, I’ve not heard any of my colleagues complain that they are lacking tenants.”
In line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda, Mr Momanyi, the Lands CEC, said Governor James Ongwae’s administration has identified 12 acres of land for the construction of the affordable houses.
“The county government has identified 12 acres of land in two different places; 7 in one place and 5 elsewhere. It’s now the responsibility of National government to erect affordable houses in them,” he said in a past interview with this reporter.
He however declined to state where exactly the parcels are.
In the 2019/2020 budget, Treasury allocated Sh31.5 billion for Housing and Urban Development.