The number of gated and guarded communities in Malaysia has been on the rise
in recent times. Is it as effective as it is made out to be? - By Rakesh Kumar
Gated and guarded community is the order of the day for developers looking at developing a parcel of land with homes that come with additional facilities. According to a research paper presented at the Asian Professional Security Association (APSA) Conference, back in 2011, entitled “An investigation of factors influencing communities’ decision in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (authored by Mariana Mohammed Osman, Noor Suzilah Rabe and Syariah Bachok)”, the definition of gated and guarded communities is:
Gated and guarded communities are commonly identified as a cluster of houses surrounded by fence with controlled access. A number of measures of restriction such as security guards, 24-hour patrol services, central monitoring systems, and close circuit television (CCTV) cameras are provided.
The paper also noted that some of the gated communities are more than just a security provider. In residential areas such as Country Heights Kajang, Tropicana and The Mines, the contemporary housing schemes are designed with upmarket facilities such as golf courses, clubhouses and recreation areas.
These developments offer a mix of security, privacy and an affluent lifestyle within their residence. In fact, this has been a key selling point for many developers, real estate agents and negotiators who often emphasise the security features offered as part of their marketing strategies.
Currently, according to the Town and Country Planning Department, there are four types of gated communities in Malaysia, namely:
I. Elite community
This type of gated community is primarily occupied by the upper-class or high-income group of people. It focuses on exclusion and status in which security is one of the major concerns due to the resident’s status within the community.
II. Lifestyle community
The lifestyle community generally consists of retirement communities, leisure communities and suburban ‘new towns’. Activities inside these communities can include golf courses, horseback riding and residents-oriented leisure activities.
III. Security zone community
Security zone community is the most popular type of gated community in which it offers a housing development that is surrounded by fences or gates. This development is normally provided with guard services.
IV. Security zone community and lifestyle
This type of gated community housing development is usually developed within a city centre. It focuses on both the security aspect and the provision of lifestyle facilities for its residents.
The gated community is a concept that emerged in response to the rise of safety and security issues, and offers more advantages in terms of a calm environment and enhanced safety that is ideal for family development.
Gated and guarded communities are generally better protected from criminal activities. In a research paper by Asnida Mohd Suhaimi from the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya (UM), entitled ‘Divide and conquer: The aggravation of social segregation by gated communities’, noted that there were reports that the implementation of the gated community concept has successfully reduced the crime rate in certain areas.
Several gated community developments such as Aman Suria, Bukit Mayang Mas, Damansara Lagenda and Taman SEA, in Petaling Jaya, were reported to have lower crime rates compared to housing areas without the facility.
The same paper also noted that gated communities have also been perceived to promote a stronger sense of community among the residents. Children in gated communities can go out and play safely in the neighbourhood due to the closure of the inner roads to the public.
However, not everyone is in support of the concept. The APSA paper noted that 5.7% of its respondents mentioned that house break-ins continue to occur in the neighbourhood. There is even suspicion that the security personnels in charge could have been involved in these criminal activities.
The APSA paper also warned of the implications of social segregations. “Gated neighbourhoods have been argued to cause fewer interactions among the resident,” it said, adding that it is common that gated and guarded community are usually resided by people with a higher income.
In a similar vein, the UM paper also insisted that various studies have found that the gated community concept have several constraints such as the lack of emergency access for fire fighters, police and ambulance. Another concern is the monetary issue.
As the housing purchasers are obliged by law to pay monthly fees for maintenance and security services, the study noted, the quit rent paid to the local council are considered redundant because the area will not be serviced by the local council, but would instead be maintained by the management company appointed by the developer.
Adding to the woe is the potential dispute amongst the residents. The residents of conventional neighbourhoods who are keen to convert their existing residential areas into a guarded community must get consent from at least 85% of the residents. What about the remainder 15%? Will they be forced to pay what is required later on?
Although the security issue is largely taken care of, the gated and guarded community still needs to address other concerns that surround this concept. Such communities should have constant discussions with the local and federal authorities in order to prevent a serious issue from cropping up.