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Gated community getting popular

13/09/2004 The Star  By S.C. Cheah

JUST when the gated community concept is gaining wider acceptance, some people claim that such exclusive living may create “social apartheid” in our country. 

With numerous crimes reported daily, I am sure most of us would choose to live in a gated community where we can have better protection. However, as most of these niche projects are rather expensive, most of us cannot afford to buy them and pay the monthly maintenance charges that can be as high as RM1,000 for a very high-end bungalow project.  

Security is uppermost on people's minds these days and they are prepared to pay more for their homes if they can be assured of some form of security. Why envy them if they can afford to own such homes? 

Even if there are no gated communities, there is no guarantee that there would be better social integration. How often do you see the wealthy folks bringing their children to a low-cost area and allowing them to mix with the poorer kids in a normal township? 

This brings me to the mixed development concept that became the trend during the 1980s and 1990s. Although this concept has its advantages, there were also shortcomings.  

A show unit of the Damansara Idaman phase 2 project by TA First Credit Sdn Bhd, which is a gated community

Selling a mix of residential, commercial and industrial properties has always been a part of strategic township planning. 

Usually developers would bring in the population first by building affordable homes such as low and low-medium cost houses and flats.  

They would then build a few rows of shop houses. As more people move in, they would launch the town centre and sell more office and retail units. The industrial units would follow suit. 

The idea behind building industrial and commercial units is partly to create more economic activities in a township.  

Some developers even build apartments beside the factories to provide accommodation to the workers. They would also build some high-end homes such as bungalows for the factory bosses and then get them to buy the apartments for their workers to stay. 

Townships with lots of amenities and facilities such as a wet market, multipurpose hall, town centre and shopping centres may provide the opportunity for residents to meet, but more often than not, people tend to keep to themselves.  

One of the flaws of a mixed development is when a portion of it looks like a “ghost town”. This may happen when factories and shop houses are not occupied or remain unsold for years. This encourages vandals to move in.  

Social interaction takes a backseat and people become concerned about security. Developers saw this need for security and that's why the gated community concept is flourishing these days. 

There are also many mixed townships where the low-cost residential units are cast in an obscure corner and look very rundown. At the other extreme, you have bungalows standing side by side with low-cost flats.  

Examples include the Saujana Akasia bungalow project in Sungai Buloh that is next to some low-cost flats built by another developer and the high-rise, low-cost flats in Pelangi Damansara that are next to many pricey houses and condominiums in the very prime PJU area where projects such as the Mutiara Damansara and Palm Spring @ Damansara as well as Tesco, Ikano Power Centre, and Ikea are located.  

A recent check showed that these low-cost apartments are crammed and there is hardly enough car parking space for the residents. 

One wonders whether these residents mix with each other. The value of a high-end property may be adversely affected if its image is marred by an adjacent low-cost project, especially one that is poorly maintained.  

Is it fair to expect people who have paid, say RM1mil to RM2mil for a bungalow, to stay in an area that may not reflect a kind of exclusivity?  

There have been suggestions that low-cost residential units can be built in a nicely planned and designed environment to give them a better image. The creation of pathways can link them to the higher priced properties that are gated communities. Neighbourhood parks and social activities can still help to bring the residents together.  

Some developers are already experimenting with the concept of multiple gated communities within their development. They are bringing this concept to a more affordable level where terrace houses in each precinct have their gated communities.  

Developers are throwing in landscaped parks, nice streetscapes and other facilities to foster greater social interaction within these communities.  

Such gated communities for the masses can bolster social and racial harmony if properly planned and managed. 

There are other issues involved. Many so-called gated communities are, in fact, not exclusively gated, as the common areas such as internal roads and vacant land within the development do not belong to the residents.  

Legally it has been argued that outsiders can still demand access into the development. 


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