Neighbourhood units in Nairobi a survey of Bahati and Ofafa 1 Estates
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" During the four Workhops which have been jointly organized in Nairobi by PGCHS, HRDU and UNCHS (Habitat), it has always been emphasized that Nairobi is one of the richest towns in terms of variety of housing environments. At the same time Nairobi is a city of contrasts. Some of the important types of dwelling environments are:- large informal settlements with a rich history such as Kibera; sprawling slum settlements such as Mathare and Kangemi; inner city slums such as ·Pumwani; older City Commission rental estates from the 1940s and 1950s such as Kaloleni and Mb~tela; former Asian neighbourhoods such as Pangani and Parklands; former European executive estates such as Muthaiga and Lavington; large middle-income estates from the 1970s, such as Buru Buru; site and service schemes such as Kariobangi and Dandora; relatively new initiatives such as Umoja II and Pumwani NHC. There is an enormous need for housing, but also a lot of opportunities in terms of unexplored housing potentialities. Part of the housing stock and capacity which has been often neglected by several authorities in the field of housing, is the belt of Neighbourhood Units which stretches along Jogoo Road in the Eastern Part of Nairobi. Only now, when the pressure on land for housing in Nairobi is getting really out of hand, some attention of the Local Authority is paid to this part of their rental housing stock, while the Central Government has shown sone interest too. This coincides with the growing consensus about the fact that the service and space standards of some of these Neighbourhood Units are no longer in tune with the current opinions of what (low-income) housing ought to be. So, the Nairobi City Commission is currently seriously considering the "Redevelopment" of some of the Neighborhood Units. The term "Redevelopment" however is very vague and many approaches are still possible. The actions to be taken can vary from minor adjustments (e.g. additional sanitary blocks) to" densification (e.g. infill of housing blocks in the open spaces) to the complete demolishing of an estate (e.g. introduction of a new medium-rise housing scheme). It is however very evident that still a lot of questions are left unanswered. Which estates should receive first priority ?How to increase the current densities? What is the technical state of the art of the buildings and infrastructure? How can one preserve the architectural qualities of some of the estates ? What will happen to the actual inhabitants ? Many questions touching various professional fields are raised but not yet answered. PGCHS and HRDU have taken advantage of this burning housing issue to formulate an architectural project during the 1989 Course of "Housing in Development". Bahati and Ofafa I have been selected as possible project sites, because of the priority given to them by NCC and the feeling that reasonable answers to some of the above questions can be given for those environments. This report aims at providing a base of information so as to project exercice as close as possible to the real situation. hopes to stimulate the relevant authorities to reflect on finally it could be a first stepping stone towards further subject of Neighbourhood Units in Nairobi.
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