As someone who studies suburbs and housing, I admit enjoying watching people choose homes on HGTV on shows like House Hunters. I’ve noticed that one factor that occasionally influences the choice of homes is whether it is located in a gated community. A few thoughts about this topic, gated communities, which has attracted more attention from sociologists and planner in the last two decades:
1. On these shows, the gated communities often pop up in the South or West, particularly in Florida or California.
2. We rarely see any evidence of the gated community like the entryway to the neighborhood (a fake guardhouse or a real guardhouse?) or a fence around the entire neighborhood. We are simply told that the suburban home is in a gated community.
3. At least when making their choices on screen, the people rarely talk much about the fact that a home is in a gated community. This is probably due to the fact that the show is supposed to be about the home and not the neighborhood. (So how about a new show where it is less about the individual housing unit and more about selecting a neighborhood?)
4. The homes in the gated communities vs. those that are not in a gated community look very similar. Ultimately, it is really rare that anyone on this show is selecting a home that is in a “unsafe neighborhood.” As sociologists have suggested, living in a gated community is often a decision made regarding some amorphous outside threat. They are devices that portray a certain image while also acting as reassurance for residents. As some have shown, like Setha Low in Behind the Gates, some suburban residents feel very afraid even when they live in exclusive, upscale neighborhoods. The gates in many neighborhoods don’t really keep people out but they help the residents feel better.