The aerial photograph on the company’s website shows a small residential area located on a riverbank, surrounded by trees and pastures. But the idyllic impression is deceptive. This estate has sparked huge controversy. Arcadia Potsdam is Germany’s first gated community.

When Arcadia opened in 2006, it provoked sharp media criticism. The Süddeutsche Zeitung daily, for example, spoke of “class-segregation”, “residential disintegration” and the “privatisation of public living space”. The critics argued that gated communities were a symptom of increasing social polarisation and fragmentation.

These critics assumed that gated communities in Western countries would be essentially the same as those in Rio de Janeiro or Johannesburg. But had they examined the well-developed American market for privately-owned residential areas, they might have noticed that people’s motivations to choose this way of living are, in fact, very diverse.

Besides communities focused on security, the US-market has a large number of “lifestyle communities”, catering for golfers, anglers, retirees, young families and nature lovers. They offer a particular set of local amenities and a specific code of conduct, tailored to the preferences of the inhabitants. There are at least two advantages over a “conventional” residential area.

Firstly, the gated community is an elegant way of solving the conflict between users of residential space with different preferences. For example, an area of limited space cannot, at the same time, have strict noise regulations for older people and very permissive ones for families with small children.

Secondly, the capitalised value of a gated community is a function of the residents’ satisfaction. It is thus in the owners’ economic self-interest to find out which local amenities and codes of conduct their residents desire most.

Accordingly, analysis of the American Housing Survey shows that inhabitants of gated communities are more satisfied with their place of domicile and its surroundings than residents of other neighbourhoods. Moreover, gated communities are not enclaves for the rich. Once renters are included, the lowest income quintile displays the greatest proportion of gated-community residents.

The criticisms of gated communities are therefore flawed. The emergence of many more Arcadias in the near future will be of great benefit to those seeking a living environment more closely tailored to their individual tastes.

Head of Health and Welfare

Dr Kristian Niemietz joined the IEA in 2008 as Poverty Research Fellow, becoming its Senior Research Fellow in 2013 and Head of Health and Welfare in 2015. Kristian is also a Fellow of the Age Endeavour Fellowship. He studied Economics at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and the Universidad de Salamanca, graduating in 2007 as Diplom-Volkswirt (≈MSc in Economics). During his studies, he interned at the Central Bank of Bolivia (2004), the National Statistics Office of Paraguay (2005), and at the IEA (2006). In 2013, he completed a PhD in Political Economy at King’s College London. Kristian previously worked as a Research Fellow at the Berlin-based Institute for Free Enterprise (IUF), and at King's College London, where he taught Economics throughout his postgraduate studies. He is a regular contributor to various journals in the UK, Germany and Switzerland.