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Gated Communities - Social Issues

The development of gated communities seems to be part of the features of the housing industry especially in Klang Valley due to high returns and increasing demand from the market. The appreciation in values as a well as the investment returns makes it more attractive to both buyers and developers. Nevertheless gated community in Klang valley are mostly of high end properties, some even touched millions of Ringgit per unit. With this kind of price, only certain segment of Klang Valley population can afford it. It also characterized the people living behind the walls and gates of the communities. They are high income earner with good education background and most of which are married.

To these people, the main reason for choosing gated communities is security. The high crime rate in the urban area has instilled fear of crime among the urban dwellers. Whilst the local authority and police department are doing their level best to fight crime, the developers are taking this opportunity to provide a secured homes with all the required facilities and capitalized the natural beauty of the surrounding area to become the theme of the development. However privacy and the prestige attached to the gated community is also a major concern to residents.

To the residents, gated community represent the hope for security, they prefer a secured home and environment especially when they area away for business or works. To them, gated communities is perceived to keep out the unwelcome and the unwanted. Gated communities also appeal to the people searching for a sense of community and also identity.

Whilst the utmost reason in choosing gated community is security, the prestige attached to the gated community development is also the main concern. This is because those who stay within gated communities are those with high income bracket and are willing to pay more in order to be amongst the same class of people. In other words, their circle of friends are also from the same communities. This has to a certain extent, segregates the rich and the poorer at least in term of their homes. The rich stays within gated communities whilst the poorer lives in the open communities. The poor has to share the public amenities and facilities provided by the local authority with thousand others and sometimes has to make do with whatever available. Whilst the poorer also need the protection and security just like the rich, they have to depend on the local authority and the local police. The residents of gated communities get the extra protection and security they badly needed by having guards and walls to reduce the fear of crime. However, these extra or additional protections comes with a price, in term of service charge or maintenance/management fee charged by the management corporation or joint management body/developer. The maintenance fee could be as high as RM800/- per month, almost up to the monthly salary of the low cost flat dwellers. Whilst those living in flats find it difficult to fork out extra money to pay for the basic maintenance, they have to pay facilities from low cost flat dwellers, those in gated communities find it is necessary to pay for the security and the lifestyle they should have as residents in gated communities, i.e. the lifestyle of the rich. To most of the residents, the maintenance fee charged by the MC is reasonable.

With all the facilities and amenities provided within each gated communities, the social life of the residents evolves around the gated communities, their circle of friends are from the same community and their children grew within the community. To the people outside the gated communities, putting up walls is another way of saying that the neighbourhood they have been staying is not safe. It creates tension between the people living inside and outside the gates. It create a ‘them and us’ attitude between the two with little indication of a social interaction between the residents of inside and outside the gates. By shutting themselves in, and excluding the local residents, they have failed to realize that life is also about people, about sharing and caring and about the rich variety of culture which can be found within open communities.

Desapark City

Elitis Bayu Valencia

Commentators who support gated communities argue that resident feel a sense of community and neighborliness, derived from the legal and physical form of developments. A gated community is physically bounded, the residents are self-managing and there are legal restriction on their behavior and use of properties. The neighbourhood level of governance, together with residents’ responsibility for their own community and the use of enforceable legal contracts could even be seen as prototype or ideal from of community. To some commentators, gated communities are destroying the ideal of ‘democracy/ for the outsiders by restricting access to some part of an environment. However, to the residents gated communities, their right and obligation are enforced by a private governing body or homeowner association to which all residents must belong. Everything is under control from where to hang your laundry to where you should park your second or third car. To them these ruling moulds them to become a more discipline and a better citizen.

Some argue that gates and barricades are unfortunate but necessary. They feel that such measures are the only way for beleaguered neighborhoods to reclaim their streets and for better-off neighborhoods to protect themselves in the future. But are these expectations realistic?

We must also remember that the reasons for gating are not always entirely, or even primarily, the laudable reasons of crime and traffic control. Hopes of rising property values, the lure of prestige, and even the desire to build barriers against a poorer neighborhood or are also common reasons behind gated communities.

Suburbanization has not meant a lessening of segregation, but only a redistribution of the urban patterns of discrimination. Gated communities are a microcosm of the larger spatial pattern of segmentation and separation. In the suburbs, gates are the logical extension of the original suburban drive. In the city, gates and barricades are sometimes called "cul-de-sac-ization", a term that clearly reflects the design goal to create out of the existing urban grid a street pattern as close to the suburbs as possible.

Exclusion imposes social costs on those left outside. It reduces the number of public spaces that all can share, and thus the contacts that people from different socioeconomic groups might otherwise have with each other. The growing divisions between city and suburb and rich and poor are creating new patterns which reinforce the costs that isolation and exclusion impose on some at the same time that they benefit others. Even where the dividing lines are not clearly ones of wealth, this pattern

As a conclusion, the author feels that there are still room for improvement especially on the legislations and planning aspects of gated communities to accommodate better development concept of gated communities in the future so that nobody is deprived of their own rights as a citizen of Malaysia.

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