Business journalists with affinity to the real estate sector have for the last three or so years fixed their sights on affordable housing. Kenya, like other fast-developing African nations is keen to realist affordable housing for its burgeoning population.

In March 2020, I spoke with George Wachiuri, CEO, Optiven Group on the issue of housing and he noted that, ‘the government needs to adapt new technology such as prefabricated materials in its bid to achieve affordable housing for it’s citizens.

As Optiven, we are now receiving a growing request for building houses for our customers and this is what has advised us to take on Optiven Homes to help meet the demand’. His sentiments were also quoted in the Management Magazine published by the Kenya Institute of Management, in which he said there is need to think out of the box even in matters of housing Kenyans and towards achieving affordable housing for all.

A visit to the Optiven Construction hub in Kitengela bears witness that Optiven has also embraced the technology. The bee hive of activities on the ground is also a sign that the company has replaced traditional buildings of stones and mortar, with simple container prefabricated offices.

The simplistic offices are a sight to behold having all the composite characteristics of modernity complete with appropriate amenities on site. Could this be the next big thing in affordable housing? The government in 2017 promised to deliver 500,000 affordable houses amidst high demand for the same.

The emergence of COVID 19 has further complicated the equation with a majority of the working populate (both formal and informal) losing their livelihoods from insecure employment or job cuts necessitated by an economic slowdown.

The aftermath has seen a high percentage of middle income earners now surviving on reduced pay or none at all, others moving to the slum areas while some have been forced to migrate to the rural areas as the future paints an uncertain picture of the times ahead.

Yet among these are those who invested in plots not far from the city. For one, Joachim Kabiru, this has been a time to think out of the box. His plots sit on a 100 by 100. The plots have been home to Kabiru and his family since May 2020 after they bought two containers and made a two bedroomed simple house.

He says the first time he saw that technology was when he served in the Middle East and where most buildings are actually not built with stone as is tradition with Kenya. His wife Judy is all smiles saying since moving out of their rented house in Eastlands, the container home they have now is a great reminder that their savings went into good use.

Having lost her job in the hotel industry, she has been studying new methods of agricultural architecture to see how she can put up a poultry and dairy structure creatively. Theirs is a simple but functional home with a practical approach to affordable yet comfy.

With proceeds from the poultry and dairy, the Kibiru’s are already on their way to building a firm foundation for their dream home.  Wachiuri says, ‘innovation even in the building sector is what advises our operations at Optiven Construction.

We are always on the lookout to see how best we can meet our customers’ needs. This we do by providing not only the important requirements for building, but also ensuring top notch quality of our unique products.’ The Kitengela plant is home to unique hollow blocks and a variety of cabro pavement blocks – the latter being especially liked by a majority of customers.

According to Wachiuri, ‘the use of innovative ideas to building is what stirs the hopes of property owners to believe that they too can become home owners. Our ideal push as Optiven is to settle at least 300,000 Kenyans in their own homes and this we do by providing investors with strategic value added plots in easy to access areas that at within reach of the metropolis’.

He adds that the key is to start small, start now and not stopping in terms of making investments. Such advise is especially crucial for first time plot buyers who can do well in investing in affordable properties such as Rafiki Gardens in Machakos, and Furaha Farms in Kajiado.

His advise is key especially for first time buyers and investors in real estate as it is good to know that there is need to understand that while title deeds are not the only thing to look for, the background of the company is important. It is also important for you to check out the value additions on the ground because you need proper infrastructure to access the plot.

Optiven Limited has done this well over the years as evidenced by the awards won. Wachiuri says, ‘we understand our customers needs and not just anticipate them but work to fulfil their expectations. It is this zeal that has enabled the team to win different awards for doing what we do best – serving our customers.’

Optiven’s project in Kitengela, Victory Gardens is a perfect example of value added properties. Here the phrase buy-and-build gets a lease of life literally as the project has a number of investors enjoying their homes already. Right from the main Kitengela Namanga highway, the project roads are murramed while the plots are well demarcated.

The project is fenced, with a gate and caretaker on site. In addition, the project has been installed with solar street lighting, water, electricity and evident greening including well grown trees. The residents are guided by rules and regulations that embrace green living including on fencing, waste management and community.

As I leave the precincts of Victory Gardens Kitengela, I wave at a customer who is supervising the offloading of materials to start the foundation of what I believe will be a beautiful home. Her journey to realise her dream home has started and Optiven is at hand to walk that journey with her. You too can join the Optiven Family towards your dream of home ownership.

By Cathrine Khasoa
Cathrine serves as Lead for Public Relations and Media Liaison at Optiven Group.

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