Current Urban Studies
Vol.06 No.01(2018), Article ID:83303,16 pages

Why People Prefer to Live in Gated Communities in Istanbul?

Neslihan Aydın Yönet1, Funda Yirmibeşoğlu2

1Department of Architecture, Faculty of Architecture and Design, Bahcesehir University (BAU), Istanbul, Turkey

2Urban and Regional Planning Department, Faculty of Architecture, Istanbul Technical University (ITU), Istanbul, Turkey

Copyright © 2018 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY 4.0).

Received: February 9, 2018; Accepted: March 24, 2018; Published: March 27, 2018


The aim of this study is to answer the question of “why people prefer to live in gated communities in Istanbul?”. Qualitative research methods have been used to develop a conceptual model. Methodologies employed were in-depth interviews and interview forms, where the data were analyzed using content analysis. In-depth interviews employed 33 different household members in 9 different household types. The sample includes different housing types, security levels and income levels to determine the housing preferences in gated communities. The conceptual model is mainly based on household characteristics, project features of gated communities and opportunities offered by gated communities.


Gated Communities, Istanbul, Lifestyle, Preference Reasons, Security

1. Introduction

Gated Communities (GCs) are products of the globalizing world. One of the important results of globalization with neoliberal policies is the rapid social and spatial transformation of cities since the 1980s (Atkinson, 2010; Low, 2003; Glasze & Alkhayyal, 2002; Keyder, 1999; Luymes, 1997) . As a result of this transformation process, people demanded to live in GCs to escape the chaotic atmosphere of the cities. The main preference reasons for living in GCs are “fear of crime” (Manzi & Smith-Bowers, 2005; Grant, 2005; Low, 2003; Gooblar, 2002; Blakely & Snyder, 1997; Caldeira, 1996; McKenzie, 1994) and desire for “the new lifestyle” driven by globalization (Keyder, 1999; Öncü, 1999; Caldeira, 1996) .

GCs are generally defined as housing areas where entry is controlled and public spaces are privatized (Blakely & Snyder, 1997) . Blakely and Snyder (1997) grouped gated communities into the categories of lifestyle communities, prestige communities and security zones. Lifestyle communities focused on recreational activities, prestige communities focused on real estate value and security zones focused on security.

The GCs in Istanbul are products of the globalizing world too. The real estate investments of the private sector gained momentum in Istanbul since 1980 (Keyder, 1999) . The first gated communities in Istanbul were villa towns built for upper-income, married couples with children. This type of communities’ lifestyle focused on prestige, privacy and quality, rather than security (Geniş, 2007) . Another type of GC in Istanbul is the gated tower (“Rezidans” in Turkish) found in the city centre. The gated towers’ residents are upper-income singles and couples without children. Gated towers’ residents are typically offered secretarial, food, cleaning and laundry services similar to a five-star hotel (Bali, 2009) . Middle-income groups have started to prefer to live in GCs in Istanbul in the last decade. GCs for middle-income groups are characterized by smaller plots with dense housing. These types of GCs consist of apartment blocks which are more affordable for middle-income groups (Görgülü, 2011; Aydın-Yönet 2009; Aydın-Yönet & Yirmibeşoğlu, 2009) .

Some studies about the reasons for preferences of, and satisfaction level with GCs in Istanbul as outlined in: Firidin-Özgür (2006) ’s study, defined the most effective factors for moving into GCs respectively as security, well-kept landscapes, and prestige. The GCs cause social and spatial segregation. The basic components of social and spatial segregation are determined as education and income level. The reasons put forth for living in a homogeneous income group are lack of security and communication difficulties that result otherwise (Ünsal-Gülmez & Ulusu-Uraz, 2010) . Social homogeneity is a desired characteristic, while economic homogeneity is an existing feature in GCs in Istanbul. Women and children characterize usually determine the types of activities and facilities offered in gated communities (Erder, 2006) . The top three factors of user satisfaction are high environmental quality, activities and facilities and sufficient security in GCs in Istanbul. The main problems according to users are insufficient public services (infrastructure problems), distance to the city center, increasing population and urbanization, lack of public transport, high payments for housing maintenance and infrastructure, and traffic congestion (Özkan & Kozamaz; 2006) . Berköz’s study (2010) focused on user satisfaction level of upper-income GCs (villa town) in Istanbul. The most important reasons for user satisfaction were open spaces and green areas, security and social relations.

The results showed GCs for upper-income groups desire prestige and privacy (İnal-Çekiç & Gezici, 2009; Geniş, 2007; Aydın-Yönet, 2009; Aydın-Yönet & Yirmibeşoğlu, 2009) while middle income group projects emphasize lifestyle (İnal-Çekiç & Gezici, 2009; Aydın-Yönet, 2009; Aydın-Yönet & Yirmibeşoğlu, 2009) . However, security is a common and inevitable reason to prefer gated communities in Istanbul (Aydın-Yönet, 2011) .

Gated communities in Istanbul can be grouped as horizontal and vertical developments. This typology is categorized in to four main sub-groups (Levent & Gülümser, 2007) :

- Gated towers in the city center that appeal to upper income groups (vertical developments)

- Gated villa towns in the periphery that appeal to upper income groups (horizontal developments)

- Gated apartment blocks in the periphery that appeal to upper, upper-middle and middle income groups (vertical developments)

- Mixed areas in the periphery that appeal to upper, upper-middle and middle income groups (vertical/horizontal developments)

The additional group to this typology includes developments that were gated after they were established (Aydın-Yönet, 2011) .

The new urban development and urban growth especially in the last decade in Istanbul has been characterized by GCs. Most new housing projects, that is to say, are being designed as GCs. In this context, the aim of this study is to determine the factors affecting the choice of gated communities in Istanbul, and to identify the reasons for household relocation to these gated communities.

2. Methodology

The main research question of this study is “why people prefer to live in GCs in Istanbul?” -To address this question, qualitative research methods have been used to develop a conceptual model. Methodologies employed were in-depth interviews and interview forms. The data generated by the fieldwork was analyzed using content analysis.

In field work conducted to examine the factors affecting the preference of gated communities in Istanbul, because the household (HH) and gated community (GC) characteristics are important, the following parameters have been identified as important for determining the sample (Table 1):

- The security level of gated community

- Gated community (GC) type

- Household (HH) type

- Income level

In determining the sample size; attention was paid to the representation of the overall picture in Istanbul in distribution according to HH type and GC type. In-depth interviews were conducted with thirty-three HH members from nine different HH types according to marital status, gender, and having children (Table 2). The HH choice has been categorized according to income distribution. The GCs included in the study were divided into three groups according to the level of security. GCs in the sample, also, have three different residential typologies. In this way, the desired diversity is achieved in the conducted qualitative study.

Regarding HH types, single men with small children, single men with adult

Table 1. Sample characteristics.

Table 2. Household characteristics.

children, and single men with independent children have no representation value and were not included in the interviews.

In the sample, three different levels of security of gated communities have been identified, based on the Luymes’ classification (1997) . These are:

- Third degree security level: the settlement is surrounded by a two-meter wall or higher. Hierarchic security doors and surveillance cameras exist.

- Second degree security level: the wall surrounding the settlement is not continuous.

There is one active entrance with a security guard and flexibility in the remaining entrances.

- First degree security level: there is a symbolic entrance and metal fences on a low wall. Entrance is open.

Distribution of sample GCs in Istanbul is shown in Table 3.

In determining the location of the GCs as central or peripheral, the classification that Yirmibeşoğlu and Ergun’s used in their research on crime in Istanbul was used (Yirmibeşoğlu & Ergun, 2007) . In that research, Eminönü and Beyoğlu were accepted as first degree centers and other districts were considered in relation to their distance to these centers. This assessment was made according to a pre-2008 district map (Table 3).

3. A Conceptual Model

In this section, the research findings are evaluated. The content analysis results show that the household preferences affected by the factors which are the GC project features, opportunities offered by GC, place attachment and HH characteristics. Figure 2 shows the conceptual model for explaining factors affecting the choice of GCs in Istanbul.

HHs’ marital status, gender, having a child or not, income level and past experiences affecting feeling secure are the main factors about HH characteristics that effect the HH preferences about housing.

Marital Status: Being married or single affect the housing preferences of households. Themes About The Features Of GC Projects:

- Proximity to work is more important in married women and single men.

- Married men prefer their wives to be closer to her job.

- Single women take into account primarily the characteristics of the GC and environment rather than proximity to work.

- Proximity to friends/relatives is more important for married households and single women.

Table 3. Distribution of sample GCs in Istanbul.

- Regarding the perceived social and physical environment of the GC, for men and single men without attachment to a place and working hard, the immediate surroundings of GC is not important. Single men can act more freely in relation to the environs as they are the group that feels social pressure the least.

- Activity and amenity areas (except green areas) are more important for married men and single groups.

- Green areas are preferred by single women for walking and resting, while married groups use them to spend time with their children, and HH with dogs, used to spend time with the dog.

- Children’s playgrounds are very important for married women with children.

- Housing size is important for married households. However, housing size is not decisive for single groups, and indeed, housing that is larger than needed is not desirable because of the extra cost. However, the general trend in demand is for larger residential.

Facilities offered by a GC are more important for married HH and single women. This group of households tends to accept their difficulty in transportation-access caused by being away from the city due to the advantages provided by a gated community.

Security is more important for married HH and single women. For married women, child safety is first, while for married men, security of his wife and child is more important. For the single group, desired level of privacy is affected by exaggerated security measures. For married women, security of the social environment is more essential than earthquake safety. For married men, earthquake safety is important since it affects the real estate value. Single groups ignore earthquake safety. The perception of freedom is very important for single women.

Expectations regarding privacy vary according to the person. Residential house privacy is important to married households.

Because social activities are mostly designed for families with children, singles do not benefit from these activities.

Gender: Women’s and men’s expectations for housing and residential areas differ. In this regard, themes drawn from the research findings in terms of gender are summarized below.

- The need for social interaction with the environment is higher for women than men.

- Proximity to relatives/friends is more important for women.

- There is a significant relationship between gender and crime type. Women live in the fear of mugging risk on the street, and in fear of rape-harassment in their houses. Men are exposed to automobile theft or public assault.

- Instead of individual security concerns, the safety of spouses and children is a priority for men.

- Men consider a GC as unsafe at night.

- Automobile security is much more important for men.

- Presence of parking areas is more important for men.

- Visual aesthetic provided by green spaces is important for women (active user/non-user of green space).

- Men and single women consider housing to be an investment. In this group, there is an effort to obtain branded housing which is considered a guarantee of real estate value.

Having Children: Having children is one of the important determinants of HH’s housing preferences. Households are pursuing housing and a housing environment that is comfortable for the child. Themes associated with having children are summarized below:

- Proximity to the child’s school may be decisive in housing preferences in terms of location.

- Housing areas that ensure child safety are the choice of households.

- The role of children is important in neighborhood relations.

- Social activities are organized according to families with children.

- Presence of the children’s playground in a GC is important for families. The presence of safe playground areas that are easily round allow working families to save extra time.

- Families with children spend time in the green areas with their children.

Income Level: Expectations of households from housing and housing areas vary according to their income level.

- Transportation costs are decisive especially in the middle income groups' choices.

- Households that are satisfied with the social structure of the environment are generally in the middle/upper-middle income group level.

- The requested housing properties vary according to income group.

- Fresh air theme is more important for the higher income group households in determining the location of the GC.

- Use of two types of residences is seen in the higher income group households; one is in the center (on weekdays) while the other is on the periphery (on weekends and during summer).

Security and the new life style are the main opportunities offered by GCs.

The level of sense of security and the means of security provision are the main factors within the security parameter. Living in a gated community provides decrease in fear of crime―this is consistent with existing literature. Perceived security level and expectation of social homogeneity also affect security-related choices.

Security: GCs lead to a decrease in fear of crime. HH's sense of security is developed by past experiences:

- The main concern in fear of crime is “encountering someone who entered the apartment with the aim of robbery”.

- Being subject to criminal activity previously causes a tendency to live in gated communities.

- Experience of living in GCs affects subsequent preferences.

- The loss of confidence in the (public) security forces is a concern.

There is a demand for a safe social and physical environment in the GC's location. Social environment within the GC becomes important when the non-GC environment is considered unsafe. The elements that create mistrust in the GC's surrounding areas are land use, social profile, inadequate lighting, and a desolate environment. As the inside of a GC is socially homogeneous, danger is expected from the outside.

Living in a GC causes increased perception regarding security details; therefore, security gaps draw more attention. In general, living in secure housing feels strange for people in the beginning, however, they eventually get used to its comfort.

The tension created by the divergence between “insiders” and “outsiders” leads to security problems. As security levels increase, tension between insiders and outsiders increases, and this situation creates security problems.

Elements that create mistrust within a GC are security-related applications, personnel quality, insecure perception of the city, being identified as an obvious target and arrangements.

The way in which security is provided in GCs is important. Security officers waiting at the door provide psychological relief and this creates the illusion of a secure residential area. Electronic security systems are seen only as utilities, and it is desired that security be provided by a person (security guard). Minimum level of security demand from peripheral housing is to live in a GC, however; in the center, apartment with a security guard is the demanded security level. The GC's criminal history affects preferences. Security differs according to location of the GC being at center or periphery.

“Earthquake safety” is an effective issue in housing preferences of households in Istanbul. However, after the 1999 Marmara earthquake, GCs were built in compliance with regulations and are already earthquake resistant; thus, it is noted that “earthquake safety” is not a determinant among those GCs. Moreover, there are fatalistic approaches to earthquake safety (since it is not concrete as much as the security guard at the entrance; it’s an event that occurs outside of the people’s knowledge and control).

The new global lifestyle offered by GCs. This new way of life is shaped in a peaceful and calm environment. The new type of social relationships, expected privacy level and desired prestige/status are the other indicators of this new life style. Private Governance plays an important role in providing and maintaining this new lifestyle in GCs.

Lifestyle: The lifestyle offered by the GC affects HH preferences. There are three different approaches about the level of social homogeneity around housing.

- In general a trend, social homogeneity is desired.

- There is a tendency to disregard social homogeneity on the condition that it will not fall below a certain level.

- Social homogeneity evaluated as negative (social homogeneity is perceived to be dull and boring, and it is thought that the relationship is more sincere and productive in the environment of social diversity).

In the context of neighborhood relations,

- Working households see their neighbors lesser.

- Observed neighborhood relations are generally fine.

- The role of common spaces is important in the establishment of neighborhood relations.

- The role of children is important in the development of good neighborhood relations.

- In general, there are efforts to bring neighborhood relations into a desired level. However; some households are reluctant to establish neighborhood relations (working hard, having enough friends, appreciating the privacy).

In the privacy context:

- The level of privacy differs in housing, block development, and GC.

- Privacy-related problems are: proximity of the blocks, behavior of neighbors, sound-proofing problems, lack of private space within housing, and problems related to housing type.

- GC management has an active role in matters that affect privacy.

- Perception of privacy varies depending on the general attitude in the GC. Some households have a tendency to disregard the privacy in some households.

Participation in social activities is important to ensure social cohesion, in terms of its role in neighborhood relations, the role in the community-building process, improving place attachment to the GC. GC private governance structure is decisive in the choice of HH:

- Organized and orderly life provided by management is preferred. Responsibility of the management varies depending on the housing type.

- Due to the rules imposed by management, a certain level of quality of life is ensured.

- The services provided by the management allow households to save time. Related topics are: domestic housing repairs, maintenance, issues that require control, taking into account the complaints promptly, maintenance of common areas, security, operation of activity and amenity areas, arranging events.

- Demand for professional management is a concern. Problems relating to management are: lack of professionalism, collective activities that are organized without taking into account the overall profile. Also, first residential users are still members of the management since the beginning and households thought this situation posed a problem.

To be perceived as a prestigious residential area or a “branded development” is important for GC dwellers. Moreover, living in a neighborhood accepted as prestigious (or in the part of a neighborhood that is accepted as prestigious) is important because it shows social status. Having pets is an important issue in the choice of housing (It is noteworthy that households with dogs tend to live in GCs in which the dog ownership rate is greater). Having pets also is a symbol of social status.

There are positive and negative aspects of the spatial organization in a GC: Positive aspects are security, and organized and orderly spatial organization; while the negative aspects are that they are closed off (to the environment and to the city) and isolated (from the environment and the city). The farther from the city, the greater the affects of isolation, socially and physically. Metropolitan life forces households to prefer housing in an environment which is quieter, cleaner and, closer to nature. As the GC in which they live gets more crowded, people tend to move to other GCs that are quiet and closer to nature.

Project features of GCs scrutinized related to the topics of transportation and accessibility, social and physical environment, location and spatial organization. The level of accessibility, transportation alternatives, the time spent commuting, the level of automobile-dependency, the quality of public transportation and the cost of transportation affect the choice of GCs.

Transportation and accessibility level is a key for households in housing preferences.

- Easy access is especially important for working people.

- Transportation to necessary locations is easier in the center.

- Location affects the households’ daily travel preferences and households schedule their activities according to traffic congestion.

- In the periphery, automobile-dependency is higher.

- In the periphery, tendency towards contracted transportation services (shuttle buses) within the GC is noteworthy.

- Unregistered taxi utilization rate is high in the periphery.

How the current social and physical environment is perceived is important in HH housing preferences. There are positive and negative assessments according to the HHs. Surrounding social profile, development, land use type and increased land values are indicators to create a prestigious or decent environment. High level of social and spatial segregation, low level of neighbouring with the adjacent residential areas, high density of surrounding built environment and lack of green areas, undesirable land use types and social profile and visual disturbance are the negative assessments according to the HHs.

Because the characteristics of GC and lifestyles of HH differ depending on being in the city center or periphery, assessing the themes associated with location on the basis of center-periphery relationship will be more reasonable (Table 4).

Spatial organization both inside the GC and residence affects HH preferences. Residential interior organization, ease of use, and size affect preferences. In this

Table 4. Themes in terms of Center-Periphery Relation.

context, plan, scheme, functionality and adequacy of spaces, number of rooms, quality of materials and technical equipments/mechanical systems are important. For the spatial organization within the GC, site plan, distance between buildings, spatial organization of the common areas, the orientation of the housing, and parking-housing relationship are important.

Diversity and adequacy of activities and amenity areas within GC affect HH preferences. Activity and amenity areas allow households to save time and money. Knowing that there are many activity and amenity areas provides psychological comfort even if they are not used. Particularly in a prestigious GC, ownership of the “club membership” is a social status symbol. Diversity of activities and amenities affects the real-estate values of GCs as well.

The feeling of place attachment is important for the choice of housing. Place attachment differs depending on the city, district, and GC size. In general there is a tendency for people not to disconnect from the environment that are familiar with. People living in recently developed residential areas, especially those located in the periphery, are missing the urban vitality and urban character.

Tendency to return to a previous environment, and demanding a lifestyle that is similar to the past, are related to place attachment. People, even while they are describing their ideal type of housing, talk about the place where they feel belonging; this example shows that the relation between place attachment and housing is powerful. However, people who have never experienced a strong relationship with either city or district, have place attachment to the GC. Therefore, place attachment is higher in people who have lived in the GC from the beginning, use common areas, and who participate in public activities.

Type of housing and type of GC have an effect on people's preferences about housing.

- The level of privacy is viewed differently among single men living in gated tower.

- While a more individualistic lifestyle is more positively evaluated (previous housing is in smaller scale GC).

- The amount of supervision (previous housing is not in a GC) is considered a negative aspect.

Organizing social activities is dependent on the GC type, total area of the GC, layout plan, and the spatial organization in the plan.

The area that is under the supervision of management varies according to the GC type: Management is responsible for:

- Common spaces in the GCs composed of villas.

- Common spaces and the spaces inside the block in GCs consisting of apartment blocks.

- Common spaces and private services provided to households in gated towers.

Lifestyles change depending on housing type and the location:

- Villa (detached house): isolated from the city, safe, home life with garden.

- The gated tower in the center: in the city, individual, secure and comfortable life.

- In peripheral GCs consisting of apartment blocks: isolated from the city, many activity and amenity areas are accessible within the GC, secure, and comfortable life.

- In central GC consisting of apartment blocks: in the city, secure, and a comfortable life is provided.

Having pets is common as a general attitude in the GCs composed of villas. Households having pets in apartments need larger housing.

The scale of the GC affects the lifestyle. In larger GCs, human relations weaken because intimacy diminishes; because people do not know each other, the level of social control decreases. Therefore, since people generally know each other in the small scale central GCs, level of social control is higher compared to medium and large scale GCs, and therefore the sense of an isolated life is weaker.

Use of green space varies according to housing and GC type:

- Villa (detached house) use their own private garden,

- In GCs composed of apartment blocks, use of common green spaces,

- In gated towers and some central GCs consisted of apartment block, there is no green space.

Principle factors that affect the preference of gated communities are HH type and characteristics. When households make housing preferences, they determine their priorities according to their characteristics. Then they decide their budget in accordance with these priorities. In the following process, they evaluate the gated communities in terms of project properties and offered opportunities before they choose the optimum location in compliance with the budget. “Place attachment” is emerging in the mobility process regarding the level of satisfaction from GCs and surroundings (Figure 1).

The relationship of the factors that impact the preference of GCs discussed within in the context of the relationship of themes and a conceptual model has been developed (Figure 2). The model shows that the fear of crime and expectations of a new global lifestyle are the main parameters of gated community preferences in Istanbul. Homogeneity in the gated communities in Istanbul is mostly a socio-economic based homogeneity. Private governance of the gated communities in Istanbul is not professional enough when compared to the examples in the world. It is not possible to speak about common legal regulations about management. While in the gated communities composed of middle incomes, lifestyle is decisive, prestige and privacy is much more important in the high level income groups. The field study showed that people are generally pleased with gated communities in which they live.

4. Conclusion

“Security” and “lifestyle” are the major reasons behind the preference of gated communities in Istanbul. The results of the study include a lot of information that is expected to be useful for local governments and security forces to ensure

Figure 1. Decision-making process of preference of GC.

Figure 2. Conceptual model for explaining factors affecting the choice of GCs in Istanbul.

urban security. Reasons like difficulty in accessibility to public services, the length of time spent in traffic, the lack of parking spaces, the lack of safe areas for children, and secured housing for single women force households to seek gated communities. Therefore, housing production policies and public spaces should be reconsidered to provide secure housing alternatives for all kinds of households. Istanbul is quite insufficient in public services oriented towards children such as playgrounds, green areas etc. This study is significant since it indicates the residents’ needs to local authorities and housing markets.

Istanbul is a city located between east and west and in which the integration process between global and local occurs in a different way than in the eastern and western cities. Therefore, this model that explains the reason for the preference of gated communities in Istanbul is a contribution to the existing literature. This study examines the reason for the preference of gated communities through a qualitative work and that demonstrates a conceptual model. Studies focusing on diverse household types and gated community typologies will pave the way for further research on the topic.

As the number of gated communities increases, their public power will also increase and the urban future will be determined by these self-governing units. Therefore, policies and planning decisions related to gated communities must be addressed on both macro and micro scales in an expeditious manner. Policies in macro and micro scale must include gated communities that determine the urban sprawl of Istanbul in an uncontrolled manner. The needs/expectations of people living in gated communities and their relationships with each other could be evaluated under micro-policies. This work is important for providing data for micro policies to be developed for Istanbul. Regional and urban scale impacts of gated communities should be assessed under the macro policies.

Cite this paper

Yönet, N. A., & Yirmibeşoğlu, F. (2018). Why People Prefer to Live in Gated Communities in Istanbul? Current Urban Studies, 6, 180-195.


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