Huruma residents ponder future as demolitions begin

Monday May 16 2016

An excavator demolishes a residential building in Huruma estate on May 7, 2016 that was considered unsafe. For most of Huruma residents the problem is not the time to look for alternative housing, but the money to pay rent in any of the buildings that have escaped demolitions. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

An excavator demolishes a residential building in Huruma estate on May 7, 2016 that was considered unsafe. For most of Huruma residents the problem is not the time to look for alternative housing, but the money to pay rent in any of the buildings that have escaped demolition. PHOTO | ANTHONY OMUYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JACQUELINE KUBANIA
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Eunice Awuor was in the crowd on Saturday afternoon when Public Service Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki visited Huruma to relaunch the National Youth Service activities in the area.

As acrobats, singers and dancers entertained the CS and other ministry officials, the 30-year-old mother of five stood impatiently, waiting for the speeches to commence.

She had hoped that Ms Kariuki would announce jobs for people like her, who have been rendered homeless after the government demolished the houses they used to live in when they were declared unsafe.

For Ms Awuor, the demolitions have meant she is homeless since she cannot afford the rent that has escalated since the demolitions started.

“I used to pay Sh2,500 for a one-roomed mabati house, which was demolished because it was right next to the river,” Ms Awuor said.

“I tried to find a new home for myself and my children but I could not afford the Sh4,000 that landlords have been asking for houses that were Sh2,800.”

A single mother with no regular source of income, she has been forced to move in with a friend whose house has so far escaped demolition.

Her benefactor, Maureen Achieng’, 26, is a mother of two whose one-roomed house, also made of iron sheets, must now accommodate eight people.

“It is uncomfortable to have that many people living in such a small space,” said Ms Achieng’.

“But we are lucky to still have a roof over our heads because I know people who have been sleeping outside since they lost their houses.”

However, this luck may soon run out because Ms Achieng’s house is also on the chopping block and she has received several warnings from the local ward administrators to move out to allow for demolitions.

“I pay Sh2,500 for this house; any other one in the neighbourhood now goes for more than Sh4,000, which I cannot afford.

“I hope to be recruited into the NYS community service because that will give me a source of income.”

WE NEED JOBS
The sharply raised rent is the consequence of the government’s push to take down all buildings that have been marked unsafe after a six-storey flat collapsed in Huruma recently, killing more than 40 people.

Last week, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero halted the demolitions for seven days to allow the affected people to move.

And with the work set to begin Monday, City Hall on Sunday said yesterday it would publish a schedule today (Monday).

For most Huruma residents, however, Dr Kidero’s "generosity" is of little help since the problem is not the time to look for alternative housing, but the money to pay rent in any of the buildings that have escaped the big "X" that government inspectors mark on unsafe buildings to be demolished.

Ms Teresia Waithera’s house was also demolished over safety concerns. The former neighbour of Ms Awuor used to pay the same rent for a mabati single room.

“I am also living with a friend who has a house across the river in Area 3 of Mathare slum. I don’t want to live there, and I’m uncomfortable sharing such a small space with so many people,” the single mother of two told the Nation.

Ms Waithera’s host lives with her three children.