In its modern form, a gated community is a form of residential community or housing estate containing strictly controlled entrances for pedestrians, bicycles, and automobiles, and sometimes characterised by a closed perimeter of walls and fences. Gated communities usually consist of small residential streets and include various amenities. For smaller communities this may be only a park or other common area. For larger communities, it may be possible for residents to stay within the community for most day-to-day activities. Gated communities are a type of common interest development, but are distinct from intentional communities. In countries with a low Human Development Index and/or high Gini coefficient, gated communities provide genuine security to the upper class as well as expatriates.
Though they are called communities, there is no evidence to suggest that social capital is any higher within them than other forms of residential development. Given that they are spatially a type of enclave, they are more likely to have negative contributions to the overall social capital of the broader community outside the gated community.
Some gated communities, usually called guard-gated communities, are staffed by private security guards and are often home to high-value properties, or set up as retirement villages. Some gated communities are secure enough to resemble fortresses.
The amenities available depend on many factors including location, demographic composition, and community structure. When there are sub-associations that belong to master associations, the master association may provide many of the amenities. In general, the larger the association the more amenities that can be provided. Amenities depend on the type of housing. For example, single-family-house communities may not have a common-area pool, since the individual owners may want their own pools; whereas a condominium may offer a pool, since the individual units generally cannot have their own pools.
Typical amenities offered can include one or more
In some gated communitties to enter the person must be a registered resident with photo ID or the person must have a friend in the gated community who gives specific permission (via phone or internet) to the security guards at the gate to this effect "my friend Joe Smith will visit me in the next hour or so, his drivers licence number is XXXXXX, let him in".
In Brazil, the most widespread form of gated community is called "condomínio fechado" (closed housing estate) and is the object of desire of the upper classes. Such a place is a small town with its own infrastructure (backup power supply, sanitation, and security guards). The purpose of such a community is to protect its residents from outside violence. The same philosophy is seen on closed buildings and most shopping centers (many of them can only be accessed from inside the parking lot or the garage).
In Panama, people buy houses inside of them because of the increased security, mainly in big cities. The majority of these gated communities are built for the middle and upper middle classes. They are preferred over condos and apartments because of lower community payment, higher feelings of privacy, and lower house prices.
In Argentina, they are called "barrios privados" (literal translation "private neighborhoods") or just "countries" and are often seen as a symbol of wealth. However, gated communities enjoy dubious social prestige (many members of the middle and middle upper class regard gated community dwellers as nouveaux riches or snobs). While most gated communities have only houses, some bigger ones, such as Nordelta, have their own hospital, school, shopping mall, and more. In recent years, this influx of people going from the big cities to the gated communities has experienced a backlash in Argentina. Visiting Buenos Aires, the renowned geographer and urbanist Jordi Borja from Spain who teaches urban planning at the University of Barcelona criticized gated communities calling them "the negation of cities". Architect and university professor Marcela Camblor, who heads the Urban Design Dept in Florida, USA told the La Nacion newspaper that "the gated communities experiment has failed", calling them "unsustainable from the economic, social, and now even energetic point of view".
In post-apartheid South Africa, gated communities have mushroomed in response to high levels of violent crime. South African gated communities are broadly classified as "security villages" (large-scale privately developed areas) or "enclosed neighborhoods". Some of the newest neighborhoods being developed are almost entirely composed of security villages, with a few isolated malls and other essential services (such as hospitals). A common mode of development of the security villages involves staking out a large land claim, building a high wall surrounding the entire zone, then gradually adding roads and other infrastructure. In part, property developers have adopted this response to counter squatting, which local residents fear due to associated crime, and which often results in a protracted eviction process. Crime syndicates have been known to acquire property in some of these security villages to be used as a base for their operations within them.
They are popular in southern China, namely the Pearl River Delta Region. These communities are often purchased by overseas Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese, and new-rich local Chinese. Most famous one is Clifford Estates.
In Saudi Arabia, gated communities have existed since the discovery of oil, mainly to accommodate Westerners and their families. After threat levels raised since the late 1990s against Westerners in general and Americans in particular, gates have become armed, sometimes heavily, and all vehicles have been inspected. Marksmen and SANG armored vehicles appeared in certain times, markedly after recent terrorist attacks in areas nearby, targeting Westerners.
One of the advantages of a private high security gated housing development is that it reduces pressure on the police because it eliminates the need for police patrols due to the private security patrols, CCTVs and fencing installed in the community. Therefore the police never need to patrol the area, and only ever need to go inside to arrest and charge thieves who are caught by the CCTV/private security patrols.
Proponents of gated communities (and to a lesser degree, of culs-de-sac) maintain that the reduction or exclusion of people that would just be passing through, or more generally, of all non-locals, makes any "stranger" much more recognisable in the closed local environment, and thus reduces crime danger. This view has been attacked as unrealistic - since only a very small proportion of all non-locals passing through the area are potential criminals, increased traffic should increase rather than decrease safety by having more people around whose presence could deter criminal behaviour or who could provide assistance during an incident.
Another criticism is that gated communities offer a false sense of security. Some studies indicate that safety in gated communities may be more illusion than reality, showing that gated communities have no less crime than non-gated neighborhoods.
A limited number of gated communities have long been established for foreigners in various regions of the world:
There are many gated communities in Argentina, especially in Greater Buenos Aires, in the "partido" (county) of Pilar, 60 km N of Ciudad de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Federal District), as well as in other suburban areas, such as Nordelta.
Even though Tortugas Country Club was the first gated community developed in Argentina-dating from the 1930s/1940's-most of them date form the 1990s, when liberal reforms were consolidated.
Since Buenos Aires has been traditionally regarded as a socially integrated city, gated communities have been the object of research by sociologists. Gated communities are an important way through which people - particularly middle and upper classes - cope with the high levels of violent criminal activity in Greater Buenos Aires.
Although gated communities have been relatively rare in Australia, since the 1980s a few have been built. The most well-known are those at Hope Island, in particular Sanctuary Cove, on the Gold Coast of Queensland. Other similar projects are being built in the area. In Victoria, the first such development is Sanctuary Lakes, in the local government area of Wyndham, about 16 km south west of Melbourne city. In NSW there is Macquarie Links gated community. Many Australian gated communities are built within private golf courses.
Brazil also has many gated communities, particularly in the metropolitan regions Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. For example, one of São Paulo's suburbs, Tamboré, has at least 6 such compounds known as Tamboré 1, 2, 3, and so on. Each consists of generously spaced detached houses with very little to separate front gardens.
One of the first big-scale gated community projects in São Paulo city region was Barueri's Alphaville, planned and constructed during the 1970s military dictatorship when the big cities of Brazil faced steep increases of car ownership by the middle and higher-classes, rural exodus, poverty, crime, urban sprawl and downtown decay.
Planning laws in some Canadian provinces ban locked gates on "public" roads as a public health issue (they deny emergency vehicles quick access). In any event "physical or explicit gating is relatively rare. More common is an implicit or symbolic gating, which effectively partitions the private infrastructure and amenities of these communities from their surrounding neighbourhoods". Nevertheless, many newer suburban subdivisions employ decorative gates to give the impression of exclusivity and seclusion.
China, and Beijing in particular, has experienced a surge in gated communities. These compounds, like most other gated communities around the world, target the rich. Also many foreigners live in gated communities in Beijing . Often foreign companies choose the locations where their foreign employees will live, and in most cases they pay the rent and associated costs (eg. management fees and garden work etc.).
The Philippines has a sizable number of gated communities or "subdivisions" as they are locally called.
Nichada Thani is a gated community based around International School Bangkok.
In the United Kingdom, gated communities can usually be found in London, especially in the Docklands, such as New Caledonian Wharf, Kings and Queen Wharf and Pan Peninsula and East London, for example Bow Quarter in Bow, London, although there is an increasing number across the whole of the country. There are an estimated 1000 gated communities in England.
Most gated communities in the U.S. are unincorporated—some, like Indiana's Briar Ridge, may even span more than one incorporated municipality—but uniquely, there are several incorporated gated cities in Southern California, namely Bradbury, Canyon Lake, Hidden Hills, Laguna Woods, and Rolling Hills. To meet legal requirements, the city halls and municipal facilities are public, and private corporations own parks and other facilities within the gates. By 1997, an estimated 20,000 gated communities had been built across the country. Approximately 40% of new homes in California are behind walls. In 1997, estimates of the number of people in gated communities ranged from 4 million in 30,000 communities up to around 8 million, with .5 million in California alone.
The village of Rosemont, Illinois, just outside Chicago, maintains a security checkpoint at the entrance of its main residential section.
Hot Springs Village is the largest gated community in the United States with over 26,000 heavily-wooded acres. HSV is governed by the HSV Property Owners' Association (POA), a private, tax-exempt home owners association.