Gated Communities and House Prices: Suburban Change in Southern California, 1980–2008


Housing prices being one factor thought to contribute to segregation patterns, this article aims at differentiating gated communities from non‐gated communities in terms of change in property values. To what extent do gated communities contribute to price filtering of residents, and do patterns of price differentiation favor gated communities in the long run? The article provides an analysis of the territorial nature of gated communities and how the private urban‐governance realm theoretically sustains the hypothesis that property values within gated communities are better protected. In order to identify price patterns across time, we elaborate a spatial analysis of values (price distance index) by identifying gated communities with real estate listings in 2008 and matching these with historical data at the normalized census‐tract level from the 1980, 1990 and 2000 census in the greater Los Angeles region. We conclude that gated communities are very diverse in kind. The wealthier the area, the more it contributes to fuelling price growth, especially in the most highly desired locations in the region. Furthermore, a dual behavior emerges in areas with an over‐representation of gated communities. On the one hand, gated communities are located within local contexts that introduce greater heterogeneity and instability in price patterns. In this way, they contribute to a local increase in price inequality that destabilizes price patterns at neighborhood level. On the other hand, gated communities proliferate in contexts that show a very strong stability in terms of price homogeneity at the local level.