Rich Nairobi Tenants Forced to Move Into Single Rooms


Landlords in Nairobi are a worried lot with many left counting losses as tenants continue to vacate especially 2 and 3 bedroom houses for smaller, cheaper, units.

More and more households are deciding to cut their coats according to their sizes – with their focus shifting to the survival mode.

“I am no longer ashamed. I came to Nairobi alone, and I will leave alone. There is no time to show off – trying to impress friends with a nice house and TV when you cannot pay the rent,”  Vincent Otis told

“I know very well that I cannot afford the life I want at the moment. I have lived in my two bedroom house for seven years, but now it is time to scale downwards. I have discussed this with my wife and we have agreed to move to a bedsitter until things return to normal.”

Vincent who worked as an accountant in one of the major farms in Nairobi has been on a half salary since the Covid-19 pandemic since May 2020.

“My wife lost her job in bank owing to the pandemic, and that leaves me as the sole provider. Meanwhile, I have two children one of which is in school already.”

Nairobi’s Westlands Area. Photo courtesy.

“I have been borrowing a lot from Shylock to bridge the financial gap, but I guess the debts have caught up with me. It’s time to start afresh – from a Bedsitter,” said Vincent who had been living in a two bedroom house paying Ksh20,000 per month in Komarock estate.

Vincent allowed this writer into his new house -a single room in Kayole – just opposite Komarocks estate.

The single room serves as the sitting room dining area, changing room and most importantly bedroom. The good news is that the bedroom is separated from the rest of the house using a curtain.

Privacy is a rumour

There is little privacy – everything you say is heard – even a silent whisper.

Vincent says he knows more than 10 people who were in the middle class – with good jobs and salaries – but who cannot even afford rent – forcing them to scale down.

“I know many people who have moved from gated communities to estates they would never have dreamt of living in,” he says.

Most landlords have refused to lower rent prices, with may of them citing tough economic times and loans.

James, a landlord in Nairobi told Mwanahabari that it would be impossible to lower rent when they don’t have tenants in the first place.

“I have 20 units half of which are empty. Only 10 houses are fully occupied, with each tenant paying Ksh18,000 per month for the two bedroom house. Yet, of the ten houses that are occupied, almost half have arrears running as far back as three months,” James said.

Broke landlords

“Some of us have rental houses but can hardly feed our families and take our children to school,” he adds.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down progress of affordable housing projects undertaken by the government.

PS for Housing and Urban Development Charles Hinga said this was a milestone achieved by the government despite many setbacks.

Hinga said: “The government is confident this program has taken shape and citizens will benefit.”

This comes at a time when Nairobi has four ongoing housing projects covering 21,642 houses.

Although the Affordable Housing Programs aims to ensure decent and affordable housing to low and middle-income households, many families in Nairobi are struggling – with some forced to run back to the village where they own house.

Returning to the village

Take the case of Innocent Wanjala who closed his shoe shinning business in Nairobi’s Westlands area at the height of the pandemic – to return to the village.

He said: “Life was unbearable. There were days when no one would allow a shoe shiner to touch their shoes because of the fear around the pandemic. No one would dare sit on the chair to be polished.”

“I had to run back home left I got stuck in the capital with rent piling each passing month.” has leaned that most investors in Nairobi are rushing to put up single rooms and bed sitters in estates like Pipeline where demand is rising by the day.

Many people are shunning two and three bedroom houses in the capital.



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