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Pros & Cons of Gated Communities

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By : Krista Kehoe    99 or more times read
Gated communities, a type of common interest development, usually refer to housing within in an area enclosed by walls or fences with controlled access. Often they have small residential streets and shared amenities. In larger gated communities, with more amenities, it may not even be necessary for residents to leave for day-to-day activities. In North America, gated communities are often set up to contain high-value properties or retirement villages.

Most people choose to live in a gated community for one of three main reasons:

  1. They hope to have a particular lifestyle that certain country clubs or retirement communities offer.

  2. They want additional security and seclusion.

  3. They want the associated status of living in a gated community.

Similar to Resident Association trends in the United States, gated communities in Canada use collective property ownership, mandatory membership fees, and community rules and bylaws that guide the operation of the governing association. Some associations are responsible for additional services such as street repairs, garbage pickup, and property controls.

Amenities offered within gated communities depend on location, community structure, and fees collected. Larger associations can typically provide more to the residents. But the type of housing also determines what is offered; residents living in condominiums - not having the option of private pool installation - may have access to a community pool. Amenities within gated communities may include: tennis courts, community centers or clubhouses, golf courses, marinas, on-site dining, playgrounds, exercise rooms and spas. Very large gated communities may even have their own school, or shopping mall.

While proponents of gated communities argue that the reduction of non-locals makes strangers more noticeable and thus reduces crime, some research suggests that increased traffic may actually increase safety because the presence of more people deters criminal behavior and increases the likelihood of assistance during an incident. Further, some studies show that gated communities in suburban areas of the United States have no less crime than similar non-gated neighborhoods.

From an anthropological perspective, it could be argued that gated communities are a type of enclave and may have a negative effect on the overall social capital; in other words, less value may be placed on social relations and cooperation of the broader community outside the gated community. Consequently, collective or economic results may suffer. Some opponents suggest that gated communities are economically, socially, and environmentally unsustainable.

It is interesting to consider countries in which gated communities are popular and why. In Brazil, gated communities, also called "closed housing estates", are desired by the upper classes for protection from outside violence. The same is true for South Africa where gated communities or "security villages" are a response to high levels of violence. Due to violence and squatters in South Africa, developers first buy a parcel of land, build a high wall surrounding the land, then build the roads and infrastructure. In Saudi Arabia, heavily armed gated communities protect Westerners involved in the oil industry from terrorist attacks. Gated communities are also popular in China. On the other hand, in Europe, gated communities are very rare.

In Canada, physical or explicit gating is relatively rare. Planning laws in some provinces ban locked gates on "public" roads as a public health issue because they deny emergency vehicles quick access. More common in Canada, is an implicit or symbolic gating, which effectively partitions the private infrastructure and amenities of these communities from their surrounding neighborhoods.

Many newer suburban subdivisions employ decorative gates to give the impression of exclusivity and seclusion. It is important to remember that if you are thinking about buying a home in a gated community that the rules for what you can do with or on your property can be fairly strict.
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