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

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. Many argue that demand for gated environments is driven by fear of crime, and a desire for privacy and limited contact with other social groups and thus for heightened security (Atkinson and Blandy, 2005; Caldeira, 2000; Lang and Danielsen, 1997; Low, 2001; 2004; Wilson-Doenges, 2000). In the US, gating contrib- utes to social segregation and neighbourhood inequality within a context of continued low-density suburbanisation (Le Goix, 2005; Vesselinov et al., 2007; Vesselinov and Le Goix, 2012). In this scenario, gating might be considered anathema to planners and policymakers concerned with supporting social equity, interaction, tolerance and diversity.

Alternatively, gated communities are said to derive their popularity from their ability to provide their residents with exclusive access to bundles of specialised amenities. Gated communities are defined as 'club realms' that can provide economies of scale in the provision of collective but exclusive consumption services to their members (Lee and Webster, 2006; Manzi and Smith-Bowers, 2005; Nelson, 2005; Webster, 2002; Webster and Lai, 2003). The rise of gated communities around golf courses, pools or special sporting facilities and those specifically targeted at retirees points not necessarily to a process driven by fear of others, but to new forms of settlement forged through market processes that seek to satisfy the niche demands of groups of consumers who were previ- ously under-serviced. Another line of argument suggests that gated communities are better at preserving or enhancing property values and, even if for this reason alone, will tend to stimulate demand for gating even in the absence of any other motives (Blakely and Snyder, 1997; Pompe, 2008). …

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