More and more people want to reside in gated residential communities. Because of this, gated residential communities and garden apartments across the country are being built at record rates. In the 1970s there were approximately 2000 gated communities nationwide. In the early 2000s, there were over 50,000 gated properties with more being built every year. That equates to about seven million households or 6% of the national total behind walls or fences. About four million of the total is in communities where access is controlled by gates, entry codes, key cards or security guards(1). Gated communities offer some benefits and some drawbacks depending whether you are a resident or in property management. I will discuss both sides of the issue in this article.

All gated and fenced residential communities have several things in common. Gates and fences provide the perception of security, safety, and privacy. In affluent residential neighborhoods, privacy means exclusivity and therefore increased property values. Adding an attractive automatic entry gate system can easily add $50,000 or more to single family home values within some communities regardless of whether it has any effect on crime.

Gates as an Amenity

Large apartment properties often add gate systems as an amenity to attract new residents. Gated communities are desirable to most prospective residents and to most property managers because they can charge a premium for rent. The main purpose of a gate, on a low-crime property, is not to deter or prevent crime but to provide the perception of security and exclusivity. Let’s face it, everyone wants to feel good about where they live and a gated community is like a private club where access privileges are required. Any real benefits of crime prevention are a plus.

Still, other apartment communities add gate systems as a barrier to keep criminals off the property and away from rent paying residents. In this setting, the intention is to reduce crime and retain residents by erecting a significant barrier to unauthorized foot and vehicle traffic. Gates are often considered as a cheaper alternative to hiring and managing security guards. Gate installation companies promote this in their marketing and stress the added benefit of liability protection. That is not always sound advice. Gates can also be a barrier to emergency services like the police or fire departments. It is extremely important to have a system in place that allows quick access to them. Most communities use a “Knox Box” key system but there are also universal keypad codes, and restricted radio frequency access. Check with your local police and Fire Marshall.

Read more: Gated Communities