Short interview with Els Keunen

Five questions
Els Keunen
Els Keunen, academic staff Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies

CLOSER CITIES aims to connect urban science and urban practice. And to showcase the extensive array of existing urban research.

In the ‘5 questions’ series, we ask scientists to briefly reflect on their research and the shareability of their insights and projects.

1. What is the main focus of your research (topic, theme, region)?

Understanding residential trajectories of tenants in Kampala, Uganda

2. Can you give a brief description of your research?

Tenants move house a lot in Kampala: in 2018, 71% had moved in the last five years. What have been their housing pathways? What informs their decision to move? And what preferences and constraints shape their residential choice? These are questions I seek to answer.

3. How much influence does ‘local context’ have in your field of work? Can results or solutions from your research be shared with other regions easily?

While people move house everywhere in the world, their trajectories, motivations and aspirations are context-specific. While lots of research has been carried out on this topic in the Global North, micro and macro level developments in Africa are very different and therefore it is expected that their residential behaviour is distinct from that in the Global North.

4. What are the main lessons learned that can be used by urban initiatives?

Acknowledging people's frequent moving of house in Kampala has implications for planning: who to plan with and for, if many people will be moving again soon? Furthermore, tenants and their needs should get more attention by policy makers. In general, I think it is important to better understand and analyse cities and their inhabitants as dynamic entities that are constantly changing.

5. How do you think cities can implement these lessons?

  1. Rethink participation in planning by taking into account many people's short duration of stay in an area;
  2. Develop (local) policy and plans for more flexibly responding to tenants' housing needs and aspirations;
  3. Look beyond totals: rather than just capturing population as a number, look at who leaves and who arrives, and why.