As the world marked the International Day of Cooperatives locally known as Ushirika Day two weeks ago, Urithi Housing Cooperative Society handed over 100 affordable homes to families in Juja, Kiambu County. The houses, each sitting on a 1/8-acre land, are three-bedroom master ensuites.
The gated community is also served by a new commercial centre and a children’s playground along Juja Farm road.
The construction of the new Juja Plainsview Estate began in 2015. It is the fourth project under the Nyumba Mia affordable housing concept, which Urithi has been handing over to Kenyans in the last two years.
“It is such a relief handing over this project. It has been a challenge for us to go ahead of the government’s affordable housing agenda in the Big Four economic blue-print,” said Urithi chairman Samuel Maina. The houses were built off plan at a cost of 3.9 million, and members paid in small interest-free instalments over a period of three years.
The estimated value of each of the houses today is Sh6 million. “This is set to rise as the Juja Farm road is earmarked for tarmacking,” said Mr Maina.
He noted that the project faced many challenges. “Variations in the pricing for various building and construction materials escalated. There were also delays in our model of raising money, which made it costly to build due to the cost of labour. The cap on interest rates on loans also made it impossible for the low-end market to access finances as they were seen as risky borrowers,” he noted.
The handing over ceremony coincided with this year’s Ushirika Day celebrations, which have highlighted the role of saccos in the socio-economic development of ordinary Kenyans. “As we commemorate Ushirika Day, we must applaud the efforts made by our cooperatives to help realise the affordable housing dream for Kenyans. Communal building and owning of property is best realised through the spirit of cooperatives and best actualised when people stay true to the goal,” added Mr Maina.
He recommended that young Kenyans invest in gated community concepts, especially for their aged parents. “Old age is associated with loneliness. But when you have neighbours around you, you live in a warm environment.”
It is quite clear from the beneficiaries that the new face of home owners is young couples. This is unlike few years ago when old retirees would be the ones scouting around for property.
At 32, Mrs Christine Nyamoma and her husband are some of the new home owners at Plainsview Estate. Christine warmed up to the idea of joining the housing cooperative in 2015 after an encounter with one of Urithi sales agents at a city mall. “I informed my husband, and we visited the project site. This home was just an open ground. It was not easy to believe that they would actualise their plan. But we trusted them,” she explained.
The couple first deposited Sh700,000 of their savings, which they would top up each month from their salaries. “We later disposed of a property worth Sh600,000 in Kamulu off Kangundo Road to finance part of the payments. We were really committed,” she said.
But she added that there were challenges. “The initial contract was Sh3.6 million, but sometime in 2016, we were issued with another contract, quoting an additional Sh363,000 for cabro-paving of the roads and tiling of the houses – which were not in the initial contract,” she recollected.
The project delayed and it had not been completed by May 2016 as the sacco had been promised. “Some of the members who had cleared payment felt like those who had not cleared were pulling them back as the cooperative was using member payments to finance the project. This disadvantaged those who had taken loans,” she added.
But this is now behind as Christine starts a new life as a home owner and a landlord. “The wait was worth it. I have already engaged an agent to rent it out at Sh28,000,” says Christine, who is paying Sh14,000 rent in Ruiru.
Her new house will bring her additional income, which she hopes to invest in building her family house at a plot that she and her husband recently bought in Sabaki off Mombasa Road.
On the sunny Saturday afternoon, Timothy Muita was one of those who received keys to their houses. Mr Muita had paid for his house off-plan in 2015. “This was an open land, and we were not sure of the off-plan concept. We questioned a lot, but still; we paid for the house,” he shared. The project delayed, and members became jittery. “We had seen many such housing schemes collapse in 2016 and 2017. We asked many questions, but now we are happy that the journey has come to an end,” Mr Muita said.
Mr Muita and his wife have customised their house, giving it a personalised interior. The couple has used gypsum roofing, changed some doors, used customised wall and floor tiles, and painted it their preferred colours.
Their dream home has of course come at an additional cost. But still, the couple wouldn’t mind disposing it off at a cost of Sh8 million.
Urithi’s Nyumba Mia affordable housing concept was developed to offer the upper lower income earners with affordable and decent homes in gated communities, said Mr Maina.
“The concept was inspired by the government’s Nyumba Kumi initiative with an aim to bring different people together and unite them. The Nyumba Mia concept is about decent affordable housing in a clean well-secured and warm environment,” he said.
With seven Nyumba Mia affordable housing concept projects in the country, Urithi Housing Cooperative Society has already handed over Spring View Estate in Gatuanyaga in Thika, Nakuru-Lanet Homes and the latest being Juja Plainsview. The other three are Nyumba Mia Annex in Juja, Nyumba Mia Rongai and Nyumba Mia in Mombasa Utange.
He noted that all Nyumba Mia estates are gated and located away from the hustle and bustle of cities, have well maintained lawns, and are spacious enough, creating the right homely atmosphere for families.
Urithi has previously handed over houses in Nakuru, Juja, Thika, and it has ongoing housing projects in Mombasa, Rongai, Kitengela, Embu and Joska. Since inception in 2012, it has handed over 150 land projects, over 500 houses and 6,500 title deeds. The society has 26,000 members.