Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Gated Communities, Neighbourhood Selection and Segregation: The Residential Preferences and Demographics of Gated Community Residents in Canada

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Gated Communities, Neighbourhood Selection and Segregation: The Residential Preferences and Demographics of Gated Community Residents in Canada

Article excerpt

The last quarter century has seen the rapid rise of walled or gated communities in a number of cities across the globe, including in Canada. Many claims have been made about those who move into gated communities. It has been said that the rise of gated living leads to segregation, driven by fear of crime or a desire for 'civic secession' as wealthy and/or white communities seek to separate themselves from different others. Alternatively, some scholars argue that such forms of community arise mainly from preferences for shared amenities and specialised facilities or from an emphasis placed on the protection of property values and thus do not imply a process of social segregation. Such arguments have different implications for how gated communities might affect the planning of the city. However, it is unclear whether gated community residents differ socio-demographically from other urban residents in Canada, and the preferences driving residential location decisions remain unknown. This article sheds light on such issues, through a survey of respondents living in three Canadian metropolitan regions (Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto), approximately one-quarter of which reside within twenty different gated communities. The results show that there are few socio-demographic differences between gated and non-gated community suburban residents and that gated communities are not at present vehicles of class or racial segregation in Canada's cities. However, gated community residents do report statistically different preferences that lead them to move into such communities. The implications of this research are discussed in relation to these preferences.

Keywords: gated communities, segregation, urban policy, land-use planning, local services, Canada

Gated communities are one of the fastest growing settlement types across both the developed and developing worlds (Atkinson and Blandy, 2005; Glasze et al., 2006; Webster et al., 2002). A well-accepted scholarly account defines gated communities as 'residential areas with restricted access, such that spaces normally considered public have been privatised. Physical barriers - walled or fenced perimeters - and gated or guarded entrances control access' (Blakely, 2007, 475). Although their modern form is typically associated with the rise of walled private communities in the United States (US), over the last thirty years gated communities have also rapidly spread throughout many other countries around the globe, including the United Kingdom (UK) (Atkinson and Flint, 2004; Blandy and Lister, 2005), Australia (Rofe, 2006; Therese, 2010), Portugal (Raposo, 2006), Israel (Rosen and Razin, 2008), China (Pow and Kong, 2007; Wu, 2010; Wu and Webber, 2004), Singapore (Pow, 2011), Brazil (Caldeira, 2000), Argentina (Thuillier, 2005), Turkey (Serife, 2007) and South Africa (Landman, 2006). It has been estimated that 6.4 per cent of all households in the US lived in gated or walled communities in 2005, up from 5.9 per cent in 2000 (Plaut, 2011; Sanchez et al., 2005). Of these gated communities, approximately 57 per cent involve controlled access via security guards or entry codes (Plaut, 2011; Sanchez et al., 2005). While emerging more recently in Canada, gated communities are becoming more common in large cities and retirement areas (Grant, 2005; Grant and Rosen, 2009; Rosen and Grant, 2011; Walks, 2010). They are most prevalent in the provinces of Alberta and Ontario and particularly in British Columbia (Grant et al., 2004).

The rise of gated communities has stimulated a number of scholarly debates. Blakely and Snyder (1997) characterise the rise of gating as 'fortress America' and suggest that the retreat behind walls reflects a process of 'civic secession' from public life and responsibility. McKenzie (1994) characterises this process as the secession of the successful. Atkinson and Flint (2004) subsequently raise the spectre of a 'fortress UK', in which wealthy elites spatially insulate themselves from the increasingly vulner- able masses. …

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