Understanding residential choice under risk: A case study of settlement fire and wildfire risk

S. Christ*, N. Schwarz, R. Sliuzas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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As more people worldwide are moving to urban areas there is an expansion of urban land that adjoins wildland. This study focuses on an area where fire-dependent and fire-prone vegetation meets an informal urban settlement named Imizamo Yethu in Cape Town, South Africa. We investigate the reasoning behind why some residents choose to remain in a settlement that experiences both wildfires and settlement-based fires and why others choose to leave. To achieve this we integrate three theories: protection motivation theory, John Turner's theory on settlement patterns and place attachment. We converted Turner's qualitative theory into quantitatively measurable indicators and identified five resident types with varying characteristics in the settlement. In agreement with Turner's theory, employment and friends and family were identified as key reasons for people remaining in a known high-fire-risk settlement. Finally, we combined the protection motivation theory with Turner's theory and place attachment in regression models to determine why people remain in the study area and what factors may make them move. The key determinants for residents remaining are the perceived benefits of the location, place attachment and the individual's perception of fire-threat. Significant determinants for moving away due to perceived fire-threat include how effective the move would be for the fire hazard and their current level of place attachment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102815
JournalHabitat International
Early online date19 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Fire
  • Fynbos
  • Informal settlement
  • Place attachment
  • Protection motivation theory
  • Turner
  • Wildfire
  • UT-Hybrid-D

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