I recently received an email from an individual who was extremely averse to the idea of building suburban developments such as house plans in Kenya. I read her passionate comments regarding the folly of developing housing units within the suburban areas of the city with great interest, as I believe it is important to be honest and open minded about trends in the building and construction industry.
Is Building Suburban Developments In Kenya The Right Thing To Do?
One of the arguments that she advanced was with regard to the fact that suburban developments within the north American region were rapidly deteriorating into slum areas characterized by dilapidated houses and spiraling crime rates. Many of such neighborhoods fetched a premium selling price at the point of purchase. However they have now changed from what they were when built to dens of crime and drugs, whose property rates have since dropped sure to people having abandoned these properties and moved in favor of urban living in high density areas.
In addition, the cost of such suburban developments and lifestyle poses a challenge in terms of having to over rely on road transport as the main means of transport to places of work and amenities within the urban areas. Finally, the question of environmental degradation comes into play by virtue of pollution due to heavy usage of vehicles for basic transportation to these locations. The cost of maintaining each unit cost of these developments is invariably higher due to the smaller population densities served by the available infrastructure.
All these factors make for developing suburban developments such as house plans in Kenya sound very untenable and an exercise in futility.
There are justifications for building suburban developments
These thoughts notwithstanding, there are compelling reasons for developing nations to invest in developing suburban developments. There are several justifications for developing cities within the developing nations to embrace the development of suburban housing developments.
For one, many of the areas around cities within the developing nations have plenty of development potential. For one, much of the land around these areas has not been fully exploited, in spite of it being in relatively close proximity to the city centers, due to various reasons. These may include lack of high capacity infrastructure that has an ability to deal with large volumes of traffic at any given time. This limitation has in the past limited the radius of spread of the city to a relatively small distance away from the central business districts, in comparison to urban cities in the western world.
However this is rapidly changing in various metropolises of the region.
For example, New York City has a metropolitan population of more than 20 million people distributed over an area of 6700 square miles. Nairobi City in retrospect has a much smaller population of approximately over 3 million inhabitants living on about 300 square miles (source Wikipedia). It is possible to see therefore that cities in developing nations are way smaller in terms of size than comparable metropolises in the western hemisphere.
What this means is that there is definitely a need for cities to expand outwards as they continue to see population densities continue to increase through rural urban migration. It would be foolhardy to fail to plan to increase the areas of our cities and reduce pressure on high cost of available land close to the Central business districts, which is already seeing incredible rise in land prices due to demand.
Cities such as Guangzhou in China have populations of up to 20 million people within them. The populations of even the densest cities in developing nations pale in comparison. However despite the high population densities that may be observed in these cities of the world, they have had to spread their metropolis area quite a bit through improving modes of communication and ease of transport systems throughout the cities.
In so doing, satellite towns often begin to develop in their suburban areas, as communities begin to grow in those areas. With proper planning, these communities can be given places to live, work and play, and indeed create a lifestyle. Doubtless, these communities would grow to the point that they will meet with the expanding metropolis and coalesce into one.
Growth of the city through town conurbation with suburban developments is inevitable
Case in point, one of the suburban developments of Nairobi called Westlands has grown steadily as a commercial center to the point at which it now has almost completely amalgamated with Nairobi City’s central business district. It has emerged as a strong hub of commercial buildings and shopping malls.
With the creation of new modern modes of transportation, cities inevitably become easier to access. Using modern high capacity rail systems or multiple level highways, connecting nodes of the different parts of an urban setup and its suburbs becomes easier, and makes the spread of the city quite tenable. As regards to service provisions, it is the onus of the city Lords to ensure that they have a good development plan that embraces the rapid growth of populations in these suburban developments.
Finally as relating to the green agenda, several suburbs have come up in the last few years which have shown the way to go with regards to creating sustainable neighborhoods. Sporting innovations in waste water recycling, energy generation and sustainable reticulation of the same, well done urban planning, you name it. The beauty of such buildings in suburban developments is that due to the lower cost of land, they offer better value for money for individuals looking for a better lifestyle, as they are designed on a blank canvas, free of encumbrances from the city.
With these thoughts in mind, I am of the opinion that such suburban developments should continue to grow.