Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Gated Housing as a Reflection of Public-Private Divide: On the Popularity of Gated Communities in Poland

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Gated Housing as a Reflection of Public-Private Divide: On the Popularity of Gated Communities in Poland

Article excerpt

Abstract:

The aim of this article is to suggest an explanatory set of factors to the popularity of gated housing in the Polish context. The explanation focuses on the divide between the public and the private sphere and encompasses economic, cultural and institutional explanations to the gating phenomenon. The empirical material consists of interviews, discourse analysis, a questionnaire, official reports and data, and legal regulation analysis. The Polish example display that both the remnants from the past and the contemporary ideals can be derived from the public-private divide. This divide has played a central role in the negotiations on urban space, the role of housing, and the identities and activities connected to housing and spatial issues since 1989. It is argued that the introduction of market economy followed by socioeconomic inequalities, has resulted in specific forms of creative strategies for individual actions among Poles and to the popularity of gated housing.

Keywords: gated communities, post-socialist societies, Poland, housing, public-private divide, individualism

Introduction

Poland is an interesting case to examine in regard to the number and the expansion of gated housing2 in Europe. Gated forms of housing in Poland have spread throughout the country in a quite short period of time, since mid 1990s, and the capital alone is estimated to hold as many as 200 to 400 gated communities (Werth 2005, Jalowiecki & Lukowski 2007, Lewicka & Zaborska 2007). Even cities like Gdansk (Polanska 2011), Wroclaw (Kajdanek 2009) and Lódz (Tobiasz-Lis 2011) have had their shares of the gated housing and probably more cities if we trust the national media reports (Plock, Bydgoszcz, Bialystok, Gdynia, Katowice, Kraków, Radom, Poznan, and Olsztyn), but the field is still under-researched. The spread of gated housing has been massive in Poland and researchers argue that a cultural change has been taking place where gated communities gain popularity and are sold by real estate developers with safety as central marketing strategy (G^decki & Smigiel 2009).

The aim of this article is to present an explanatory set of factors to the popularity of gated housing in the Polish context. The explanation proposed focuses on the divide between the public and the private sphere and encompasses economic, cultural and institutional explanations to the gating phenomenon. The research questions posed in the article are:

- How is the housing market and current housing situation affecting the emergence and spread of gated housing in the country?

- What role does cultural and institutional explanations play for the emergence and spread of gating?

- Why is it important to separate the public and the private sphere when studying the phenomenon of gating in the Polish context?

The conclusions drawn in the article are grounded in the empirical material gathered between 2006 and 2010. The material consists among others of: nine interviews with people living in gated communities, two interviews with civil servants working with spatial planning issues, a questionnaire with 86 inhabitants of gated housing, an analysis of discourse on gated communities in 50 newspaper articles (published in 2003-2008), a study of statistical data and official reports on housing issues (development plans, statistical yearbooks, etc) and an analysis of the legislation on housing and spatial issues (and more specifically 15 legal acts on the regulation of housing and spatial issues) (for a more detailed presentation of the empirical material see Polanska 2011).

The article begins with a presentation of previous research on the topic of gated communities worldwide and in Poland and proceeds with a description of the Polish housing market and current housing situation. It continues with presenting the cultural and institutional explanations to the spread of gated housing in Poland and examines the institutional conditions in the country in relation to a special form of individualism that is closely connected to specific preferences in the field of housing. …

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