In this lecture Sonia Roitman, from the University of Queensland, discusses the development of gated communities (GC) in the global north and south, looking at the causes and consequences associated with this phenomenon.


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Issues which the lecture addresses

Over the last 30 years, GC have developed worldwide in cities in the global north and south. The expansion of this type of housing responds to structural causes, such as increasing inequality and a polarisation process, and also to individual preferences. In addition, GC have positive and negative impacts that can be analysed according to several dimensions: spatial, economic, political and social.


Short analysis of the above issues

The analysis of GC development is organised in three main areas: First, a discussion of the characteristics of GC. Second, an analysis of why GC have developed over the last 30 years. The causes include structural causes and subjective preferences. Third, an exploration of spatial, economic, social and political consequences of the expansion of GC, showing both the negative and positive effects of this type of residential development. Finally, the conclusion of the lecture addresses the implications of GC development for planning.


Propositions for addressing the issue

The discussion of the characteristics of GC is essential as there are several definitions and this has an impact on how we understand the phenomenon, and also on how planning frameworks can addressed their growth. There are some elements that create controversy in the definition of GC. * GC constitute the main type of housing development from the formal system (usually encouraged by the private sector, with the endorsement of the government). * There are important positive and negative impacts of the development of GC. In particular, it is important to consider them in relation to the type of cities we want to live in and in particular, on the relationship with SDG11 and the New Urban Agenda * Urban planning has a crucial role and should use some instruments to minimise the negative impacts of GC and maximise their positive impacts. All these points will be illustrated with examples.



Sonia Roitman is a Senior Lecturer in Development Planning in The University of Queensland, Australia. Prior to this appointment in 2013, she held academic, research and professional appointments at University College London (UK), School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS, UK), Free University Berlin (Germany), Universidad Nacional de Cuyo (Argentina), Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Técnica (CONICET-Argentina) and Secretaría de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable, Gobierno de Mendoza (Argentina). She has lived and worked in Australia, Argentina, United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico and Uganda. Her contributions to the field of development planning and urban sociology include influential research on urban inequalities and how they 

manifest in cities. Her research interests include housing and poverty alleviation policies; the role of grassroots in the production of space; and, gated communities, segregation and planning instruments in global South cities. Her current research locations are Indonesia and Uganda. She serves in the Board of the RC21 Committee (Research Committee of the Sociology of Urban and Regional Development, International Sociological Association) since 2014. Her publications are available at 



Roitman, S. (2004), “Urbanizaciones cerradas: estado de la cuestión hoy y propuesta teórica”, Norte Grande, No 32, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, pp. 5-19.

Roitman, S. (2005), “Who segregates whom? The analysis of a gated community in Mendoza, Argentina”, Housing Studies, Vol. 20 (2), pp. 303-321.

Roitman, S. (2010), ”The changing image of suburban areas in Latin America: gated communities through the lens of local governments”, Clapson, R. and Hutchinson, R. (Ed.) Suburbanization in Global Society, Emerald, Bingley, Research in Urban Sociology, vol. 10, pp. 273-292.

Roitman, S. (2013), “Close but divided: how walls, fences and barriers exacerbate social differences and foster urban social group segregation”. Housing, Theory and Society, Vol. 30 (2), pp. 156-176. 

Roitman, S. (2016), “Urbanizaciones cerradas a escala planetaria” (Gated communities at a planetary scale), Prospectiva. Revista de Trabajo Social e Intervención Social, National University of Valle, Colombia, No 21 (April), pp. 13-22.

Roitman, S. (2017), “Splintering (sub)urbanism and social differences: gated communities as the driver for suburban change in Argentina”, Revista INVI, Vol. 32 (90), August 2017, University of Chile, p. 159-182.

Roitman, S. and Phelps, N. (2011), “Do gates negate the city? Gated communities’ contribution to the urbanisation of suburbia in Pilar, Argentina”. Urban Studies 48 (16), December 2011, pp. 3487-3509.

Roitman, S., Webster, C. and Landman, K. (2010), “Methodological frameworks and interdisciplinary research on gated communities”. International Planning Studies, Vol. 15 (1), pp. 3-23. Best Published Paper Prize 2011 by AESOP.


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