How a neighbourhood affects you socially and economically

Wednesday March 18 2020

An aerial view of an estate along Entebbe Road.

An aerial view of an estate along Entebbe Road. Photos by Rachel Mabala 

By Carolyne B. Atangaza

For a long time, there were unconfirmed theories about how much an individual’s life is affected by where they live.
In 2013, renowned Harvard researcher Raj Chetty and colleagues, after culling more than two decades’ worth of data, came to a conclusion that children’s immediate neighbourhood area has significant effects on life outcomes.

In fact, their study claims that a child’s neighbourhood has a greater effect on future income earnings than the neighbourhood they end up living in as an adult since it determines how much you are exposed to crime, gun violence and even mental and physical health hazards.

Informs your attitudes
Linda Asiimwe, a social scientist says one’s neghbourhood has far-reaching impacts on their lives.

“It is human nature to want to fit in with those around you by acting like them. For instance, it is often said that when you buy a luxury house you also buy the luxury lifestyle. So the neighbourhood you choose to live in will eventually influence some of the choices you make and your attitudes to life,” she notes.

Asiimwe further notes that secure and affluent neighbourhoods offer more social benefits to their residents since they are more likely to interact with and make economically beneficial connections. However, she says this might have a negative impact on people’s self-esteem especially when they have to struggle to keep up with their neighbours or get ahead of them.
“There is a level of stress that comes from living in prestigious neighbourhoods. You have a certain image and find yourself being forced to keep it up at all costs,” Asiimwe says.

Find your community
Bob Bwayo, a real estate broker says one of important factors in choosing a neighbourhood is the location.


Its location will often determine the quality of services, safety and consequently the people that live there.

The broker reveals that people choose neghbourhoods according to their aspirations or current economic status.

From his two decades experience, Bwayo has learned people will view a neighbourhood differently depending on the kind of people that live there.

“Most brokers are not ashamed to point out residences of affluent people to clients they are trying to sell houses or land too. There is always a positive shift when a client realises they might be living in the same area as a certain minister or business tycoon. They might never meet but the security and hope that information brings is powerful,” the real estate broker notes.

Younger people with limited resources, according to Bwayo are less interested in the neighbourhood they end up in as long as the houses are decent. Since they think they are probably making a temporary decision they do not care as much as their affluent counterparts who are more interested in the kind of people that live in their neighborhood.

Namatala slum in Mbale District.
Namatala slum in Mbale District.

“The well-off young people will ask probing questions about what most people in the neighbourhood do for a living. They feel more comfortable if they recognise a name from their own circles,” Bwayo relates.

Think ahead
Before moving into a neighbourhood, Bwayo recommends doing thorough research to eliminate disappointment and regret later. He recalls a number of clients who moved too fast only to find themselves trapped in neighbourhood they could not bear.

“One client bought land in a neighbourhood that seemed quiet and far from the effects of urban living. Unfortunately, by the time their home was completed, the area had exploded into an urban hub. Their home was dwarfed by the many shopping malls that sprung up. They were forced to sell and look for another area and start building afresh,” he recounts.
Before committing and investing in area, therefore, it is important to know what its future looks like. The best way to do this is to check with the local authorities to find out upcoming development plans. Look out for any road network developments because a road changes the overall feel and look of a neighborhood.

“If your plot is surrounded by undeveloped land, find out what it might be used for. If your budget can afford, you are safer buying it off because it might end being bought and developed into something that affects your own home,” Bwayo advises.

So what else should one consider before moving into a neighbourhood? Property manager Austin Kantu says the first thing one should do is choose the characteristics they want in their neighbourhood and then go out and look for them.

“If you have children, you will probably want an area that is quiet, secure and child-friendly where your children are free to move around without being violated by sounds or sights. If you are a young person, you will probably be interested in an area that has good restaurants and entertainment spots. Knowing what you want brings you closer to finding it,” Kantu notes.

More than an address
Kantu cautions against going by hearsay and being closed-minded because places are susceptible to change.

“It is not good enough having the desire to live in a certain address. For instance, about 20 years ago, Ntinda Village was the perfect place for families. It was a quiet residential area where children from different families could gather outside their gates and play football or dodgeball. Unfortunately or fortunately, the area has since been turned into a busy entertainment and corporate centre and causing families that can afford to leave. The same thing is happening in most suburbs close to the city centre,” Kantu relates.

So when selecting a neighbourhood, follow your needs and not the address.
House hunting is a tedious process and a minefield of lies from agents so you might not be able to visit many places to find the perfect neighbourhood, but use the time and information you have wisely.

Kantu recommends that if you get the chance to spend time in a prospective neighbourhood, try to talk to as many different people as you can in a conversational way.

“People are always willing to offer information if approached nicely. Do not turn it into a grilling session, build rapport and tactfully ask for what you want to know. Talk to your prospective neighbours, their frustrations might save you from making the same mistakes,” he advises.