عنوان مقاله [English]
The emergence and expansion of planned residential developments with hard and controllable boundaries called gated communities and the social consequences of living in such communities have attracted the attention of researchers for decades. These communities are increasingly spreading in developing countries such as Iran. Despite the many studies conducted around the world on the social consequences of living in such developments, few empirical studies have examined such issues in Iran. Gated communities driven by the need for the creation of self-contained, planned, and private communities have become part of the Iranian urban housing development. The origin of gated compounds in Iran dates back to Sassanid cities which used walls and gates to control access and separate privileged social classes from the rest of the population. However, it seems that new gated communities first appeared during the early 1960s with the enforcement of the third and fourth Reconstruction Plans of the country. During this period, as housing proved to be a major issue, housing provision by the private sector burgeoned. The target profile was an emerging social class formed owing to the economic and political changes of the early 1960s. With the formation of the new social class and the entry of the private sector in housing market, gated communities became a marketing opportunity and a means of attracting particular markets for private housing developers.
In the housing literature, there exist many disagreements on how sense of community is perceived mainly as an indicator of the quality of life of gated communities’ residents. The literature shows that gated communities can both increase and decrease the sense of community. Considering the important functions of the sense of community in residential areas, this study aims to examine the factors affecting the development of the sense of community in gated communities. It mainly tries to answer the question: “How is sense of community perceived among the residents of gated communities of Hamedan and what are the factors that affect it the most?” In this survey, the data were collected from 360 residents above 20 years of age selected through cluster sampling in three gated communities in Hamedan. The scale used for measuring sense of community was the 12-item questionnaire developed by McMillan and Chavis. This questionnaire which enjoys high internal reliability with a Cronbach alpha of 0.80 was developed to measure the sense of community of the residents of the neighborhoods of the European and American cities. However, for the purposes of this research, the items of the scale were revised based on the social relationships and the neighborhood dynamics of the Iranian context. Due to the revision of item 11, the internal reliability was calculated again (Cronbach alpha=0.78).
The results showed that the variables related to local social ties including trust and social control, security, length of residence, use of public space and the existence of mixed uses had a meaningful relationship with sense of community. Therefore, it can be claimed that strong local social ties improve mutual trust and facilitate social control as well. In this way, sense of security increases, which leads to an increased number of residents willing to go to public places and enjoy their community; the fact that triggers social interactions, and consequently, sense of community. An increased sense of community in residential areas stimulates residents to stage the reconstruction and modernization of their city. Sense of community paves the way for participatory democracy, contributes to the implementation of various social and economic programs, and eventually, improves the quality of life.
In this research, the level of the perceived sense of community was not high. Hence, the results support those disagreeing perspectives in the literature that focus on the social costs of gated communities. Accordingly, gated communities can hamper social interaction and might add to the problems of creating social networks which provide an opportunity for social and economic activities – an issue related to city resilience. Due to the fact that gated communities did not appear overnight, they will not disappear in the short run and certainly will be the major landscape of cities for decades. Therefore, there is the need to look for a way to fully use the benefits of gated communities and minimize their potential harm. There is no single strategy for creating a strong sense of community. Instead, a set of interrelated guidelines and recommendations can be developed in areas such as population, transportation, land use, environmental quality, housing design and urban design which can help promote the sense of community among the residents of gated communities.