By Katy Migiro
ATHI RIVER, Kenya (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Recently married with a one-year-old child, Joan Moraa Mbogo dreams of escaping Kenya’s noisy, dirty, crime-ridden capital and buying a home close to her mother’s newly-built apartment overlooking the Lukenya Hills.
Machakos County, which starts 20 kms (12 miles) south-east of Nairobi, is popular with young Kenyans unable to afford decent homes in the city, where most developers are only building houses for the richest 10 percent of residents.
“I’ll get a house here and we’ll become neighbours,” said 28-year-old Mbogo, dressed in a yellow top and jeans, watching her son, Nathan, totter across her mother’s sitting room.
In July, Mbogo’s mother moved into Karibu Homes Riverview, a 19-acre development that is set to include 1,000 apartments, shops, basketball courts, a clinic and a nursery when complete.
“There’s fresh air. It’s nice and quiet,” said Veronica Mbogo, a retired civil servant in her 60s, looking out from her fourth floor balcony at the yellow and grey apartments, dotted with acacia trees.
Nearby labourers dig foundations for the second phase of the development, where dozens of units have already been sold.
“They have been haranguing us to buy,” said Ravi Kohli, managing director of Karibu Homes at his office in a leafy part of Nairobi. “There is such a huge demand for housing.”
Karibu Homes, founded in 2012, is one of a handful of developers building affordable homes in Kenya, seen as critical to stemming the spread of slums and improving the quality of life for many in East Africa’s biggest economy.
Although millions of quality, affordable homes are needed, few are built due to high land prices, lack of access to finance and government bureaucracy, experts say.