Aside

Africans live there: A complaint about housing

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There is something that has really bothered me for a long time. It is one of those thoughts that just intrude my mind uninvited.

Recently I found my neighbor making the road. I was touched to see someone doing something. And so I stopped to congratulate him on his initiative. It is good seeing someone do something about things we just complain and do nothing about.

As we were chatting, I brought up the topic that has been bothering me. It is about some houses that are coming up near my neigborhood. It seems there is someone- a developer who works for the government and has a lot of money to dispose off- who has decided to build some houses for sale in the area. From what I gathered from Mr Mungai, he must be making good money since each house is going for 12 million shillings.

If you ask me, 12 million shillings is quite a lot of money. When I make 10,000 shillings I tend to think myself quite rich. It usually happens after much sweating and many disappointments. So if I had 12 million shillings to buy a house, it means I would have saved for quite a while and have worked very hard to make that money.

Whenever I go jogging, I see those houses. I saw them coming up. They were not there last year and this year we have two one storey houses standing there. Our developer then is quite a hard-working man. He has accomplished so much in the space of a year or less.

Now when I go walking near those houses, I tend to look at them. From a far they look quite nice. The walls are orange and red and the doors look quite nice. They do tend to stand out. When I get closer other things catch my eye.

The one thing we noticed as the houses were being built is the lack of thought given to the view. They are on top of a nice hill. From there you can see the heavily wooded Karen and Nairobi in the distance. This is the side the sun rises from as well. So how could the architect have forgotten to install windows on that side?

My husband and I started joking and calling them the houses without a view. We wondered who would buy those houses and whether they would notice the lack of windows on the side where the sun rises. Unfortunately neither do the windows seem to face the sunset- which happens over the beautiful Ngong hills. You see, the houses face each other instead. So the view these guys will have will be that of their neighbor’s house.

But then again beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. And it might be good for neighborliness. For instance I can imagine it will be easier to shout across and ask for salt when it runs out.

When the houses finally got finished, they looked kind of nice. A month or so later I have started noticing other things that concern me. Ceilings are already moldy and falling apart in some places. It has been raining recently and I would like to assume this is due to a leaking roof. And the wood near the roof is already discolored from the rain. It seems the paint run away with the rain. Part of the wood has started cracking up.

During the rains, the walls surrounding the houses came down. It left us wondering much. They were quickly rebuilt- within two days I think and now look as solid as ever. We would probably have to wait for the next rainy season to know whether a good job was done.

I do not know much about how houses should built but surely, common sense dictates that something is wrong somewhere. How can new houses, where no one has had a chance to live in, look as if they are 50 year old buildings going derelict?

There isn’t much space between the back wall of the house and the fence either. So why bother putting the wall anyway. And why bother putting a window there if you can never open the window since there won’t be any space for it to open and neither will sunshine nor fresh air stream in?

I have been tempted to take photos of the houses but I am not very sure of the legal repercussions.  And anyway, there are so many of these houses coming up. All you have to do is open your eyes and look. Most rental apartments look like this anyway. I remember visiting a friend whose house never received sunshine at all and he had to put on the lights as soon as he came to the house, daytime or night time.

This won’t do at a time when electricity costs so much.

The same developer has been making the same sort of houses around the neighborhood. Just near my house he seems to have squeezed four houses in a 8th of an acre. There is no sign of where he will put the sewer. We do not know where those who will live there will park their cars- if they happen to have any or hang their laundry. Perhaps he doesn’t expect they will wear clothes and therefore will not need to wash them. Right after the front steps of their houses, is the road. Does he want to grab the road for these purposes? If so, where will the neighbors pass by?

And I am bothered. What kind of a nation are we building? And what kind of an existence is this we are creating for ourselves? We do not create space to even hang out laundry or space for the children to play. The houses are so squeezed together there is not space for sunlight or even air to pass.

The lack of air in houses is really bad. Do we want to say we want to make money so bad we could compromise on breathing?

In the past years, there have been many cases of buildings collapsing. People die, we run to rescue them, the Israelis and other foreigners come to help us out, we bury and cry over the dead ones and then move on as if nothing happened.

Now, the really worrying thing is, someone is going to buy that house for a cool 12 million bob! What?!!!

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