By Bedah Mengo
Rapid development of the real estate sector in rural Kenya has pushed up the cost of land five-fold.
While the cost of land has risen steeply across rural and urban upcountry Kenya, the worst affected is urban areas, where one needs up to 29,702 U.S. dollars to buy a 50 by 100ft piece of land.
This is higher than in some suburbs on the outskirts of Nairobi, where the same piece of land is currently going for a maximum of 19,801 dollars.
“You cannot buy land here unless you have deep pockets,” Joseph Aswani, a landlord and resident of Kakamega in western Kenya said on Friday.
The town is among those in the East African nation which has registered the steepest land price increases.
Three years ago, remembered Aswani, people were not even selling 50 by 100ft (eighth acre) plots.
“The smallest size was quarter acre and it was going for between 4,950 and 7,920 dollars. But rise in demand has led to increased subdivision and the shooting up of prices,” he explained.
A quarter acre piece of land is currently being sold at 49,504 dollars in suburbs on the outskirts of the administrative town.
“If you look around, all you see are buildings being put up and that is what is pushing up prices. We do not know for how long the rise will go on but if they continue in the next three years, then land would be a commodity for the super-rich.”
Aswani bought his half-acre located about 3km from Kakamega town nearly eight years ago at 1,980 dollars.
“I count myself lucky because if I was to wound back the clock, I would not have afforded buying land,” said the retired government worker who has six two-bedroom rental units and a home on the land.
He charges 198 dollars a month for each of the houses, noting that he is even cheaper that his peers who are charging 247 dollars for the same. As the price of land, rent has also shot up in the town considerably.
Aswani attributed the increased cost of land and rent to rise in middle-income households occasioned by establishment of a university in the town and the county government, which have put money in peoples’ pockets by employing thousands.
“The county government and Masinde Muliro University are the biggest employers in this town. These people need good housing and they are willing to pay the high rent and buy the land to build houses,” he explained.
Away from Kakamega, in Kisumu, Vihiga, Busia, Bungoma, Nakuru and Eldoret, similar scenarios play out.
A quarter-acre in the towns is being sold from 14,851 to 39,603 dollars, depending on demand, with eighth-acre also going for up to 24,752 dollars.
Similarly, apartments and bungalows prices in Nakuru and Kisumu have equally shot up as demand rises, with a three-bedroom house going for between 49,504 and 79,207 dollars.
Antony Kuyo, a real estate consultant with Avent Properties in Nairobi, said that besides establishment of universities and county governments, the rapid rise in land prices in rural Kenya is due to investment by people in the capital back home.
“Many Nairobi residents are building homes and rental units back home. Since they have the financial muscle and they are used to high prices in the city, they buy land at the inflated cost,” said Kuyo, whose firm is managing a property in Kisumu for a client living in Nairobi.
He acknowledged that the prices are getting out of hand, but added the government cannot intervene because land is sold on willing buyer, willing seller basis. Enditem