Property prices in Nanyuki are hitting the roof, thanks to a change of policy by the British Army to accommodate its troops outside their present camp at Mt Kenya Agricultural Society of Kenya showground.
This, and the fact that speculators seeking gains from the proposed development of Isiolo town into a resort city, are turning to Nanyuki seen as a safe-haven to Isiolo’s insecurity and unreliable water supply can only make matters better.
Rent of a modest family house has increased by more than 1,500 per cent triggering a development boom in the town.
“We used to rent out a three-bedroom house for an average of Sh12,000, but British Army is now taking such houses for between Sh150,0000 and Sh180,000 per month with a four-bedroom going for Sh280,000,” said Mr Abel Marete, a local estate agent.
The British Army Training Unit Kenya (Batuk) has since 1993 set up its training base in Nanyuki renting the showground for Sh800,000 a year.
However ASK earlier in the year reviewed this to about Sh5 million annually to reflect the property prices but met opposition from the British Army.
The rent dispute is yet to be resolved but it seems the army may have settled for an alternative to house its solders.
British Army Training Unit Kenya is currently building a headquarters a few kilometres from Nanyuki town centre.
Those benefiting from the boom are people with good homes in prime areas such as the up-market Muthaiga and other areas in the outskirts such as Mugambi, Mukima and SweetWaters.
Due to this explosion in rents, many home owners have found the offer quite tempting and are renting out their houses.
This has not only increased demand for residential houses, but has also triggered a lot of activity in the previously almost dormant construction industry.
Other businesses, plumbing and hardware shops, which depend on the construction industry responded well to the market.
Statistics from the council’s licensing department indicate that 40 new hardware shops have been opened this year.
Welding and plumbing businesses are also recording a boom.
“There’s a very high demand for hardware materials because even the ones that are there cannot satisfy the demand. Some developers are even ordering materials from as far away as Karatina,” says Mr Marete.
He says a lot of speculation taking place is based on the fact that Isiolo is not as developed as Nanyuki and the coming of a county government.
It is a focal point for tourists visiting game conservancies in Samburu and Laikipia.
After the 2007 post-election violence, many people migrated and invested in Nanyuki thus putting pressure on the prices of properties.
“The good thing about Nanyuki is that it is a cosmopolitan town and, unlike Nyeri or Meru, has the area for expansion in addition to the land being cheap,” says Mr Marete.
For a long time the town’s economy has largely been dependent on the presence of several military bases, cattle and wildlife ranches.
Apart from British army, many retirees from Europe are buying homes in Nanyuki due to its favourable climate.
“The sight of Mt Kenya attracts them and the town is good in terms of security,” says Mr Marete.
With large horticultural farms surrounding it and the great north road passing through; it is easier for the town to embrace a 24-hour economy.
That major banks and micro-finance institutions have opened branches in the town is an indication of the amount of money circulating in the town.
The council’s planning and engineering department has been approving the construction of between 40 and 50 new housing unit every year for the past three years.
“We could be approving more but we have some challenges in the area of personnel and vehicles,” said municipal engineer Mr Elijah Kairu.
But biggest of the challenges is that developers are far much ahead of planners.
Like many other municipalities, Nanyuki lacks a blue print that is responsive to emerging development trend.
For instance, while it experiences this phenomenal growth, a significant part of the town accommodates some very old and almost crumbling structures.
These are owned by some conservative people, who cannot sell or develop the structures into modern buildings as they lack the capacity.
Shanty-like structures have also been mushrooming alongside the haphazard sub-division of land.