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Gated communities represent a rather new trend in housing in Sofia. Besides very few secluded and privately governed neighbourhoods of the nomenclature they were little known in Bulgaria before 1989. This has changed profoundly over the last 15 years. Indeed, similar to other Central and Eastern European cities (CEE) one can speak of a boom in closed-type settlements in Sofia and its outskirts with approximately 50–60 newly constructed gated and guarded housing estates which in some cases accommodate several hundred inhabitants. While this growth of enclosed high-income neighbourhoods has mostly been studied in terms of architectural design, representation, residential structure and behaviour as well as public–private dichotomy little attention has been paid to the politico-economic processes underlying this radical restructuring of urban space in Central and Eastern Europe. Additionally the role of the key stakeholders (local business people, international developers, public authorities) has hardly been questioned. Therefore, this article tries to uncover the interplay of different stakeholders that have shaped this production of space. By applying a relational approach the article attempts to elaborate on why, by whom and by what kind of practices gated communities are produced and how they function. Beyond that the article also takes a closer look at the neo-liberal urban policy environment that has influenced the rise in gated communities. The article aims not only to extend the research by adding just another case study, but rather to provide a critical reading of gated communities in Central and Eastern Europe. Furthermore by discussing three examples of gated communities in Sofia, each representing a specific type with its specific causalities and socio-spatial outcomes, the article will also highlight what we can learn from our post-socialist Bulgarian case regarding gated communities in general.
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Reprint of ‘‘The production of segregated urban landscapes: A critical
analysis of gated communities in Sofia’’
q
Christian Smigiel
University of Leipzig, Germany
article info
Article history:
Available online 20 November 2013
Keywords:
Gated communities
Segregation
Critical urban geography
Neoliberal urban policy
Eastern Europe
abstract
Gated communities represent a rather new trend in housing in Sofia. Besides very few secluded and pri-
vately governed neighbourhoods of the nomenclature they were little known in Bulgaria before 1989.
This has changed profoundly over the last 15 years. Indeed, similar to other Central and Eastern European
cities (CEE) one can speak of a boom in closed-type settlements in Sofia and its outskirts with approxi-
mately 50–60 newly constructed gated and guarded housing estates which in some cases accommodate
several hundred inhabitants. While this growth of enclosed high-income neighbourhoods has mostly
been studied in terms of architectural design, representation, residential structure and behaviour as well
as public–private dichotomy little attention has been paid to the politico-economic processes underlying
this radical restructuring of urban space in Central and Eastern Europe. Additionally the role of the key
stakeholders (local business people, international developers, public authorities) has hardly been ques-
tioned. Therefore, this article tries to uncover the interplay of different stakeholders that have shaped this
production of space. By applying a relational approach the article attempts to elaborate on why, by whom
and by what kind of practices gated communities are produced and how they function. Beyond that the
article also takes a closer look at the neo-liberal urban policy environment that has influenced the rise in
gated communities. The article aims not only to extend the research by adding just another case study,
but rather to provide a critical reading of gated communities in Central and Eastern Europe. Furthermore
by discussing three examples of gated communities in Sofia, each representing a specific type with its
specific causalities and socio-spatial outcomes, the article will also highlight what we can learn from
our post-socialist Bulgarian case regarding gated communities in general.
Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Introduction
Gated communities represent a rather new trend in housing in
Sofia (Ga˛decki & Smigiel, 2009).
1
Besides very few secluded and pri-
vately governed neighbourhoods of the nomenclature they were lit-
tle known in Bulgaria before 1989 (Stoyanov & Frantz, 2006). This
has changed profoundly over the last 15 years. Indeed, similar to
other Central and Eastern European cities (CEE) one can speak of a
boom in closed-type settlements in Sofia and its outskirts with
approximately 50–60 newly constructed gated and guarded housing
estates which in some cases accommodate several hundred inhabit-
ants.
2
While this growth of enclosed high-income neighbourhoods
has mostly been studied in terms of architectural design, representa-
tion, residential structure and behaviour as well as public–private
dichotomy little attention has been paid to the politico-economic
processes underlying this radical restructuring of urban space in
Central and Eastern Europe (Blinnikov, Shanin, Sobolev, & Volkova,
2006; Brabec & Sy
´kora, 2009; Cséfalvay, 2010; Ga˛sior-Niemec,
Glasze, & Pütz, 2009; Hirt & Petrovic, 2011; Lentz, 2006; Polanska,
2010). Additionally the role of the key stakeholders (local business
0264-2751/$ - see front matter Ó2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2013.11.001
DOI of original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2013.06.008
q
An error resulted in this article appearing in the wrong issue. The article is
reprinted here for the reader’s convenience and for the continuity of the special
issue. For citation purposes, please use the original publication details: Christian
Smigiel (2013). The production of segregated urban landscapes: A critical analysis
of gated communities in Sofia. Cities 35, 125–135. doi:10.1016/j.cities.2013.06.008.
Tel.: +49 177 2394010.
E-mail address: christiansmigiel@hotmail.com
1
For the sake of readability we will use both the emblematic term ‘gated
community’ and ‘gated and guarded housing estates’ (which is less euphemistic and
probably more appropriate for Central and Eastern Europe) interchangeably.
2
Although having observed the development of gated communities in Sofia since
2007 it is rather difficult to estimate the exact number of gated and guarded housing
estates that actually exist. This is due to an enormous growth that took place
especially until 2008. Moreover, there is a dozen cases where projects had officially
been presented, trendy websites had been launched, but the construction stopped
after a while due to investors retreating or incorrect planning. In order to get an
overview, Sonia Hirt and me we made a first attempt to count Sofia’s gated
communities. In total we counted more than 70 gated communities in 2010 (Hirt,
2012; pp. 151–154). However, during my latest research trip to Sofia in May 2012 I
did an update of this list observing that at least 15 of these complexes were just
website projects while others remain empty.
Cities 36 (2014) 182–192
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Cities
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/cities
Author's personal copy
people, international developers, and public authorities) has hardly
been questioned (Bodnar & Molnar, 2010). Therefore, this article
tries to uncover the interplay of different stakeholders that have
shaped this production of space. By applying a relational approach
the article attempts to elaborate on why, by whom and by what kind
of practices gated communities are produced and how they function.
Beyond that the article also takes a closer look at the neo-liberal ur-
ban policy environment that has influenced the rise in gated com-
munities. The article aims not only to extend the research by
adding just another case study, but rather to provide a critical read-
ing of gated communities in Central and Eastern Europe. Further-
more by discussing three examples of gated communities in Sofia,
each representing a specific type with its specific causalities and so-
cio-spatial outcomes, the article will also highlight what we can
learn from our post-socialist Bulgarian case regarding gated commu-
nities in general.
Data and methods
This study began with a windshield survey in summer 2007 in
the suburbs of Sofia since at that time there was no other way to
get information about gated housing complexes. Later it became
easier and we gained permission to interview the main stakehold-
ers of almost half of Sofia’s gated communities.
3
In fact, we were
able to obtain access to around 30 gated and guarded housing com-
plexes and to analyse 10 complexes in detail. During the research we
conducted 30 semi-structured interviews with key informants such
as developers, general and property managers, architects, marketing
directors, sales managers, residents as well as urban planners of the
Sofia municipality. Additionally we carried out a household survey in
one gated and guarded housing estate to test our qualitative find-
ings. Within this case study area of about 700–800 inhabitants living
every 5th household of each building was surveyed. Respondents
were mostly interviewed at home. Furthermore I used participant
observation in order to identify residents’ behaviour as well as to
analyse internal relations. In total I spent several weeks (in July
2007, May 2008, October 2009, April 2010 and May 2012) in these
10 gated and guarded housing complexes. The interviews, field notes
and documents collected from the marketing and media industries
were coded based on themes identified in the research process that
lasted until May 2012. Subsequently, a thematic content analysis
was conducted. I also had a closer look at the main policy papers
and planning documents that have framed Sofia’s urban develop-
ment in general and the growth of gated communities in particular.
Gated communities from a relational perspective: some
theoretical remarks
Although Eastern European gated communities are receiving
growing scientific attention lately, most of these papers tend to fo-
cus on socio-cultural explanations (Ga˛ sior-Niemiec et al., 2009;
Hirt, 2012; Lentz, 2006). Indeed there are only a few studies that
have a different focus or apply a different theoretical setting. One
of these exceptions is Bodnar’s and Molnar’s study on newly
planned housing developments and gated communities in Berlin
and Budapest. In order to capture the interplay between public
and private space and actors they develop a relational approach
which they call an adoption of David Harvey’s relational connectiv-
ities (Bodnar & Molnar, 2010, p. 791). But why is it useful to apply
such a relational perspective when examining gated communities?
Moreover, what are the main characteristics of such a theoretical
setting?
Borrowing a statement from David Harvey one could answer
briefly that ‘the only way we can understand the qualitative and
quantitative attributes of ‘‘things’’ is by understanding the pro-
cesses and relations they internalize’ (Harvey, 1996, p. 52). In our
case it means that it is important to uncover the politico-economic
causalities, power structures and internal relations of gated com-
munities. Furthermore we need to analyse relations on different
spatial scales (i.e. global–local nexus), to unpack these relations
by examining logics and strategies of stakeholders that are in-
volved in the production of gated communities.
A relational approach seems to be a useful approach since it
does not only deal with relations of different actors or relations be-
tween individual motives of actors and their societal background.
Moreover, a relational approach contains several temporal as well
as spatial scales that help especially to highlight contradictions of
newly produced gated communities.
4
Concerning the material dimension of newly produced gated
communities a relational approach can help to uncover its polit-
ico-economic logic by looking at the practices of financing and ur-
ban design as well as by reconsidering discources and political
decisions that frame and legitimize gated communities. In terms
of our example this means to analyse Sofia’s urban policy making,
its actors and documents as well their relationalities to the current
gated community boom.
Moreover, this includes a profound discussion of ideas and con-
cepts of international developers and globally operating real estate
funds as the major producers of gated communities. Besides that
local developers and their motives to build such a restricted urban
landscape will be taken into account as well. By combining these
different elements we will be able to get a comprehensive picture
how and what kind of glocal urban power relations has produced
these segregated urban landscapes.
5
Furthermore we will also have a short look at imaginations and
symbolics of gated communities that are used and produced by
developers as well as by residents (tenants and owners). This refers
to the symbolic of lived space in a Lefebrvian sense which is related
to how residents are using public and private space. Beyond that
expectations and imaginations of developers and residents in rela-
tion to the concept of a gated community are going to be high-
lighted. Consequently, we will be able to understand a little more
of its local performative power.
Trying to put these rather general considerations into a concise
question that could guide our further research it seems construc-
tive to ask: why and by what kind of relations are gated communi-
ties constituted and how they function? However before drawing
the case study analysis we briefly need to outline the main charac-
teristics of housing and urban planning in Sofia after 1989 since
this will describe which framework the mushrooming of gated
communities has taken place in.
Housing and urban planning in an era of neo-liberalisation
When looking at the last two decades of housing and urban
planning in Sofia it becomes obvious that the general conditions
are similar to other CEE cities. Besides differences in terms of
homeownership, the principles of housing policy and urban plan-
ning did not vary significantly. As in other CEE cities deregulation
of the land and housing market, restitution, privatisation of hous-
3
I am thankful to Svetla Marinova, Iskra Dandolova und Stanislaw Ivanov who
helped me a lot in gaining access to these complexes, and who also spent cold winter
days and hot summer evenings behind gates and curtains.
4
This type of theoretical setting contains several elements of Lefebvre’s tridimen-
sional production of space (Lefebvre, 1991). Although I cannot discuss the linkages of
Lefevbre’s production of space and the applied relational approach in detail, the
following paragraphs will briefly highlight some material, strategical and symbolic
connectivities.
5
Here I will not discuss the influences of global architecture and urban design or
debates on fear of crime.
C. Smigiel / Cities 36 (2014) 182–192 183
Author's personal copy
ing and housing construction as well as decentralisation have been
the major features of policy-making in Sofia (Stenning, Smith,
Rochovská, & S
´wia˛tek, 2010). While these practices and policies
have been intensively studied for several CEE cities – Sofia is not
an exception in that case (Elbers & Tsenkova, 2003; Hoffmann &
Koleva, 1993; Tsenkova, 1996; Vesselinov, 2005; Yoveva, Dimitrov,
& Dimitrova, 2003) – not so much attention has been paid to the
question of what kind of relations (i.e. politico-institutional frame-
work) they have been shaped by. Furthermore the role of interna-
tional institutions (World Bank, International Monetary Fund,
European Union, USA, etc.) and their policy proposals and docu-
ments in shaping urban policies in Central and Eastern Europe
has not been studied in detail.
And in fact, one of the most powerful and influential relational
connectivities brings us back to the very first days of the new era.
Immediately after the changes in 1989, the World Bank published
several papers which were intended to implement a new housing
policy agenda and to serve as a guide for future urban policy-mak-
ing (Renaud, 1990; World Bank, 1993). Indeed, the proposed prin-
ciples quickly became the main guidelines for housing and urban
policy-making throughout Central and Eastern Europe (Pichler-
Milanovic, 2001; Tsenkova, 2009). A number of national govern-
ments of CEE countries and many CEE municipalities followed
the proposed framework described in Housing Reform in Socialist
Economies (1990) and Enabling the Markets to Work (1993) and
established neo-liberal policy regimes at the national as well as
on the urban level (Harloe, 1996).
6
Within these two policy papers the authors described explicitly
how housing markets and urban policy have to be restructured,
privatised and deregulated.
7
Furthermore, one can read that hous-
ing reforms are ‘indispensable to the success of the overall economic
reform’ (Renaud, 1990, p. 56), or ‘that governments are advised to
abandon their earlier role as producers of housing’ (World Bank,
1993, p. 1) or that ‘privatisation of housing production should go
hand in hand with the overall privatisation of public sector enter-
prises’ (World Bank, 1993; 62). Looking at these examples it is obvi-
ous that the intented housing reforms can be considered as an
essential part of a wider economic restructuring of Central and East-
ern European societies towards a capitalist market economy on the
one hand and to some extent also part of a global strategy of urban
restructuring on the other hand (Smith, 2002). This becomes clear
when taking a second look into the World Bank publications from
the early 1990s. One can read that housing reforms are essential be-
cause the housing sector is considered one of the most profitable
economic sectors in the future, a major area for capital accumulation
and therefore a main source for urban growth (World Bank, 1993).
However the influence of the World Bank, IMF and other
international institutions was not limited to policy formulations
or theoretical models. In order to support the intended politico-
economic change numerous projects and programmes were initi-
ated in various Central and Eastern European cities. Regarding So-
fia the city centre renovation initiatives, financed by the UNDP, or
the Sofia City Strategy, a strategic programme for urban develop-
ment prepared in alliance with the World Bank, served as corner-
stones of urban development (Dainov, Nanchev, Pancheva, &
Garnizov, 2007; Sofia Municipality, 2003). Furthermore, the activ-
ities and programmes of USAID have been influential as well since
they supported suburbanisation by promoting fiscal decentralisa-
tion (local taxes and fees, municipal budget and municipal debt).
Moreover, different international organisations have organised
several seminars or workshops for Sofia’s main policy makers.
Since a few years European institutions (EU, EBRD) have taken over
this role as major foreign stakeholders. Latest figures indicate that
both institutions account for almost one third of the annual Sofia
municipality budget (Dainov, Nanchev, & Garnizov, 2010).
Concerning housing and urban planning in Sofia, the disman-
tling of the state, which had been a cornerstone of the neo-liberal
policy models, led to a cut of almost all state subsidies for housing,
an abrupt stop of public housing construction, the dissolution of
public construction companies, a jump in interest rates for residen-
tial mortgages or loans and an uncoordinated privatisation of the
housing market – just to name a few outcomes (Strong, Reiner, &
Szyrmer, 1996; Elbers & Tsenkova, 2003; Yoveva et al., 2003; Iva-
nova, 2009). Furthermore, agricultural lands in the outskirts of So-
fia underwent a large-scale privatisation and restitution process.
Although all these changes in urban policy and legal framework,
which were introduced overnight, had a devastating impact on
housing and its residents, it probably had the most severe damage
on policy-making in general. As a matter of fact the neo-liberal
housing agenda resulted in a delegitimation of all kind of public
involvement in urban development (Dainov, Nanchev, Pancheva,
& Garnizov, 2007). Looking at the facts it shows that this ideolog-
ical attitude has been directing Sofia’s urban policy until today.
One example is that the Bulgarian capital is still lacking a coherent
housing policy as a leading urban planner from the Sofia munici-
pality confirms (Interview AA, urban planner, Sofia municipality).
Beyond that it is insightful to have a brief look at how relations
at different scales have shaped this process. Therefore, we will take
the example of the Territorial Development Plan (TDP) because it
reveals how a complex institutional framework consisting of na-
tional policy makers, local politicians and local business elite has
directed urban development. The TDP has a history that reaches
back until 1961. This has to be mentioned as the TDP of 1961 re-
mained the legal basis for Sofia’s urban development for almost
50 years. Although heavily outdated and although there had been
several new plans prepared before and after 1989 it lasted until
2009 before Sofia adopted a new TDP (Dainov et al., 2010). While
the absence of such a general urban planning guideline was of min-
or importance before 1989, since the state was omnipresent any-
way, it became problematic with the withdrawal of state
responsibility in the early 1990s. In fact, it led to a decentralisation
that can be described as a kind of ‘survival of the fittest’ policy
meaning that one could build anything in all possible variations
(Hirt, 2012). Especially private developers made use of this absence
of regulations and guidelines as one can see vividly in Sofia’s
southern parts.
8
It led to an urban sprawl that consists of a bizarre
mixture of new ‘Mafia baroque villas’ (Hirt, 2008, p. 803) built by a
new economic elite next to old summer garden houses of elderly
low-income households on one side and dilapidating large-scale
housing estates with shrinking green spaces on the other side (Hirt,
6
At the macro-level the so-called ‘‘Bulgarian Economic Growth and Transition
Project’’ can be interpreted as the main neo-liberal policy draft that has been highly
influential in shaping Bulgaria’s transformation approach (Rahn, 2003). This policy
paper was written by a team of U.S. experts. It was discussed and accepted in the
Grand National Assembly in Sofia in October 1990 only six month after the
Communist Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov had commissioned a group of economic
and legal experts from the Reagan administration to design this transformation
strategy (Binder, 1990). Although this 600-page draft did not function as a blueprint
for Bulgaria’s transformation, its recommendations have been highly influential as
one can see e.g. in terms of the applied privatization strategy, the introduction of a
currency board, which Bulgaria accepted in 1997, as well the introduction of a flat-
rate tax in 2007. The same goes for the harsh reduction of almost all kind of social
welfare ranging from food subsidies overpay-risefreezetothecuttingof
unemployment compensation (Rahn & Utt, 1990).
7
The main instruments that have been named crucial are: property right reforms,
reduction of state subsidies, decentralisation of ownership from state to local
authorities, sale of rented housing and privatisation of construction and maintenance
enterprises (Renaud, 1990; World Bank, 1993; Pichler-Milanovic, 2001).
8
In the 1990s it was local businessmen who benefitted most from the absence of
regulations. Some of them used their long-standing relations with local authorities to
acquire land almost for free while others used the weakness of public authorities to
construct without permission.
184 C. Smigiel / Cities 36 (2014) 182–192
Author's personal copy
2007; Marinova, Poscharliev, & Vaisova, 2010; Rode & Grimm-
Pretner, 2007). The Sofia municipality and the local municipalities
of the Sofia Metropolitan area have accompanied this radical change
of spatial and social structures with an inconsistent mélange of help-
lessness, gentleman’s agreements and the argument that missing
public funding does not allow the regulation of these processes. In
addition main urban planners and policy-makers as well local
authorities have applied the vision that public interventions belong
to the past and are out-dated models of socialist urban planning
(Hirt, 2007; Interview AB, local architect Sofia). Even through main-
stream lenses this reveals a radical free market, capitalist ideology.
This type of understanding of urban planning is even included in
official planning documents. In fact, these documents argue for a
shift towards a disperse city structure which in other words means
a political legitimation of the on-going urban sprawl.
Although the latest version of urban policy documents and
planning guidelines uses a different wording it does not intend a
policy change either. In fact, the new TDP as well as other planning
documents such as the Municipal Development Plan (2007–2013)
and the Programme for the Governance and Development of Sofia
Municipality (2008–2011) still follow the same laissez-faire ideol-
ogy once set up by World Bank, IMF and other transnational policy
networks, which limits public interventions, restricts public
authorities to only organise urban growth and over-emphasises
the role of private developers. Moreover, these new policy guide-
lines seem to be rather weak instruments in terms of strategical
influence as they tend to be rather uncoordinated, underfinanced
and vague policy formulations that drag behind ‘urban reality’
(Dainov et al., 2010).
Case studies
After having briefly highlighted the general politico-institu-
tional setting in Sofia we will turn our focus to three gated commu-
nities, each located in the southern districts of Sofia where almost
all gated communities are situated.
9
We have chosen these three
compounds because they reflect the broad spectrum of gated com-
munities that has emerged over the last two decades in Sofia. Each
of the case studies portrays a specific type of gated community with
its specific causalities and socio-spatial outcomes.
Mountain View Village
Mountain View Village is one of the oldest gated communities of
the post-1990 era. It was built by a Bulgarian entrepreneurial fam-
ily in the mid-1990s on an undeveloped area and is still owned and
managed by the developer’s family. Administratively, the com-
pound belongs to the suburban settlement of Pancharevo which
adjoins the Vitosha national park. However, the complex appears
as a rather isolated settlement. Only the Anglo-American school
and a few scattered detached houses are located in the vicinity.
Mountain View Village consists of 23 houses (11 large-sized de-
tached houses, each of them with a small front garden, 12 terrace
houses), a swimming pool with a bar and a playground for chil-
dren. The complex is surrounded by a solid one-and-a-half-metre
high wall. It is controlled and guarded 24/7 by security guards.
Mountain View Village houses a rather homogeneous group of res-
idents who are middle-aged, high-incomers and self-employed
and who have been carefully selected by the owners.
Maxi Club Green City
Although having a much larger number of residents (700–800)
and 18 different nationalities Maxi Club Green City also mostly
accommodates high-incomers. Another similarity to Mountain
View Village is that the majority of residents are self-employed.
Furthermore, about 70% of the households are young families (be-
tween 26 and 45 years old) with children who moved in after the
complex was opened in 2001. The main construction period was
1998–2001. Nevertheless, the complex was constantly enlarged
until 2007. Today it consists of 19 five-storey apartment buildings.
The apartment size varies between 140 and 254 square metres. The
gated housing complex, which is surrounded by a fence, is con-
nected with a hotel that is situated on the same plot. Therefore,
there are a number of leisure facilities such as a spa and sports cen-
tre, restaurants and tennis courts (until 2008). The whole complex,
which is part of the Vitosha neighbourhood (district of Lozenec),
was built by a private Bulgarian entrepreneur whose family still
owns the land and organises the marketing as well as the manage-
ment of the complex.
Residential Park Sofia
Residential Park Sofia is by far the largest gated and guarded
housing development in Sofia (Hirt, 2012). It is a foreign-owned
master-planned development that is meant for about 2000 resi-
dents. The investment has amounted to a total of 60 million Euros
since the planning started in 2005. Concerning the residents, the
sales and marketing strategy targets mostly young Bulgarian
households who can afford to pay at least 150,000 Euros for a
100-square-metre apartment. Residential Park Sofia is situated
on an area of 200,000 square metres. The complex is located in
the neighbourhood of Simeonovo (district of Vitosha) opposite
the largest commercial and business area in Bulgaria called Busi-
ness Park Sofia.Residential Park Sofia consists of a mix of detached
houses, multi-family houses and terraced houses (see Fig. 3). Fur-
thermore there is a supermarket, pharmacy, restaurants etc. and
a community centre comprising a kindergarden, gym, swimming
pool and several meeting points. Therefore the Lindner Group, a
German developer, advertises the compound as ‘a city within the
city’. Unlike other gated communities this is not only a commercial
slogan as road signs show it. Indeed, Residential Park acquired an
administrative status as an independent residential district of Sofia
in 2011. For the first time a privately governed residential complex
has achieved such a position which indicates the powerful position
of its management as well as of its residents.
Furthermore Residential Park Sofia has awakened some public
interest lately, because the former general manager of the com-
plex, Rosen Plevneliev, was elected as the president of Bulgaria in
November 2011.
Arrangements, regulations and conflicts/contradictions
Earlier in this paper I asked why and by what kind of relations
are gated communities constituted and how they function? Based
on this general research question I will focus in the following on
how this has been realised in our three case studies. That means
I will try to operationalise the relational approach by emphasising
relations of actors as well as practices in these three gated commu-
nities. Considering the research data I have analysed it shows that
the production of gated community spaces takes place along three
types of relations which can be labelled arrangements, regulations
and conflicts/contradictions. I have chosen this terminology because
it captures and describes the key elements and their involvement
in the process of gated community production in the case of Sofia.
9
90% of the gated communities in Sofia are situated in the traditionally wealthy
southern neighbourhoods that formerly housed the king’s family and the state-
socialist nomenclature. This also reveals that developers are keen to embed their
gated housing complexes in the historical or master narrative of Sofia to underline
exclusiveness and prestige (Ga˛decki & Smigiel, 2009).
C. Smigiel / Cities 36 (2014) 182–192 185
Author's personal copy
Arrangements
10
Arrangements have played a key role concerning the rise in
gated communities in Sofia. Especially in a politico-institutional
environment as previously described, urban development is pre-
dominantly organised and directed by a few powerful private
stakeholders imbedded in a neo-liberal state regime (with weak
public stakeholders and missing urban policy guidelines). Within
this environment arrangements function as the main instrument
of policy-making.
Figs. 4 and 5 provide an overview and attempt to illustrate how
different types of arrangements are used within the process of
gated community production. Generally speaking we can distin-
guish two phases that basically differ in terms of types of arrange-
ments involved. The arrangements are determined by the key
stakeholders and the politico-institutional circumstances at a par-
ticular time. In fact, one can differentiate between a first phase of
gated community production that started at the end of the 1990s
and a second phase that started 2–3 years before Bulgaria joined
the EU in 2007.
The first phase was predominantly shaped by Bulgarian busi-
nessmen. As Fig. 4 indicates they mainly used informal arrange-
ments in order to accomplish the construction of a gated and
guarded housing complex.
11
In most cases the procedure started
with the purchase of land. Although located in the most presti-
gious areas of Sofia the developers were able to acquire the land
for very little money by using either their local networks, political
power or by making use of the lack of public supervision as
well as missing knowledge of the former owners concerning the
property value.
‘My father, who was born here, had the idea for a gated commu-
nity when he was district mayor of ‘‘Pancharevo for a short
period’’ [the same district where the estate is situated] after
1989. It was essential for him to collect as much land as possible
for the family. [...] And somehow he was able to collect a lot of
land in a private way, because the biggest part of the territory
was agricultural land which was publicly owned. He acquired it
for a very low price. Other plots were bought for practically
nothing from the restituted owners who were mostly peasants
or the heirs of former peasants.’ (AC, manager and owner of
Mountain View Village)
‘The land was private property. So we started collecting the land
piece by piece. When these owners heard that there is someone
willing to buy more land they raised the price. And I can tell you
as an example that at the beginning we bought 100 square metres
for 30 US dollars and later on we paid 50 euros per square metre.
[...] But in reverse we sold the first apartments for 250 US dollars
per square metre. Now we are selling at 1,600 euros per square
metre for finished apartments.’ (AD, manager and owner of Maxi
Club Green City)
These two quotations mirror the politico-institutional circum-
stances as well as the main motives of the developers between
1990 and the early 2000s. In fact, a typical feature of the first phase
of gated community production is the conjunction of personal and
economic interests. In the case of the gated communities Mountain
View Village and Maxi Club Green City, both developed by Bulgarian
businessmen who had lived in gated communities (see Figs. 1 and
2), one can discover this conjunction of constructing a family com-
pound on the one side (family members also run the management
of the complex) and producing a profitable housing project for eco-
nomic elites on the other.
Furthermore, Mountain View Village and Maxi Club Green City
have been produced by similar types of arrangements as Fig. 5 re-
veals. The main feature of these arrangements is their informal
character. This becomes evident in terms of how laws, permits
and public authorities are used. As already shown the developers
are well-connected with local authorities. They have established
a network that allows them to operate without formal constraints.
That means they are able to interpret building laws and planning
regulations in their favour or even to lobby and acquire public
money for their private interests.
‘In the year 2002, it was our initiative that the Sofia municipality
installed a traffic light and a bus stop at the crossroads in front
of our club.’ (AD, manager and owner of Maxi Club Green City)
‘We do not care about the laws outside of the village. Of course reg-
ulations are important and have to be respected. And we know
them very well. But we think that they do not affect our village.
[...] We are definitely another type of housing.’ (AC, manager and
owner of Mountain View Village)
However, both cases differ in certain aspects as well. While
Mountain View Village represents a gated community which is a
secluded settlement built only for family members and friends of
the family, Maxi Club Green City is a much more heterogeneous
complex that is not intended to function primarily as a community.
As a matter of fact residents are selected only according to their
financial capability. Moreover, the developers of Maxi Club Green
City applied professional advertising (by using real estate maga-
zines, own website, glossy brochures) to attract residents for their
gated and guarded housing complex, whereas the residents of
Mountain View Village are selected personally by the owners of
the complex without any advertising campaign. In this regard Maxi
Club Green City contains similarities with the second phase of gated
community production which has been shaped by international
real estate developers and their standardised methods of produc-
ing housing projects (see Fig. 5).
Before analysing the arrangements of the so-called second
phase of gated community production in Sofia it is worth taking
a look at how public authorities perceived the growth of gated
communities and how they have responded.
‘We, as a district of Sofia, cannot regulate the development of gated
complexes. This can only be done by the Sofia municipality. [...] But
the only regulation that the Sofia municipality has introduced is
that the owner is not allowed to cover more than 30% of his plot
plus that the height of the buildings should not exceed 10 m. All
the rest including gating, fencing or whatever is up to the owner.
(AE, main architect of the Vitosha municipality)
‘We do not know how to react as planners concerning the growth of
gated communities – I mean how to deal with it. We do not have a
proper definition about it and in our laws no specification or regu-
lation about gating and fencing is included. But we do not have a
consensus whether it is good or bad development either.’ (AA, Sofia
Municipality, Department for urban planning)
In 2004 we had a big celebration here in our hotel. One of our
guests was the former mayor of Sofia who was obviously a little
shocked that there are gated communities in his city. He told me
personally that if he would have known it before he would have
instructed the urban planning department to prohibit such a type
of residential project. I had to laugh a little, because in case of
our complex it was known to be a successful project since 2001
and we even got a bus stop and traffic light installed and paid by
the municipality in 2002 (AD, manager and owner of Maxi Club
Green City)
10
I am using ‘‘arrangements’’ as a category to analyze gated communities because
they reveal the fluidity between the formal and informal side of gated community
production.
11
By informal arrangements I refer to non-official agreements and deals with public
authorities concerning land use and permission for construction.
186 C. Smigiel / Cities 36 (2014) 182–192
Author's personal copy
Taking these statements of urban authorities as an example it
becomes obvious that the Sofia municipality has no plan or strat-
egy on how to react towards the boom in gated communities. Dur-
ing our interviews urban planners even mentioned off the record
that they are in favour for this type of residential projects and they
even support it since this is a very cost efficient way for the munic-
ipality to support new housing construction. This confirms to what
has been analysed by Hirt (2007, 2012). However, these statements
also reveal that we cannot simply speak of a relation weak public
sector on one side and powerful private developer on the other.
What we can see is a much more complex interplay which can
be labelled as a kind of neo-liberal state regime in which public
authorities are important actors as they provide legal, financial as
well as infrastructural instruments and tools for the growing influ-
ence of private stakeholders or in some cases tend to act like pri-
vate ones. And last not least these statements underline a
Fig. 1. Mountain View Village or inside an American-style gated community in the suburbs of Sofia. Source: Author’s photograph, 2007.
Fig. 2. Inside Maxi Club Green City. Source: Author’s photograph, 2008.
C. Smigiel / Cities 36 (2014) 182–192 187
Author's personal copy
mentality of urban planning which perceives privatisation of the
urban fabric as a catching-up with Western cities (Hirt, 2012, p.
158).
These complex linkages illustrates the case of Residential Park
Sofia in particular. This gated and guarded housing estate is an
example of the so-called second phase of gated community
production that has been shaped by international stakeholders
and their types of arrangements. As Fig. 5 illustrates the arrival
of international developers has led to a standardisation and inter-
nationalisation of gated community production. In most cases
developers have adopted already existing strategies and layouts
of gated communities built in other CEE cities. This also applies
to the financing of gated and guarded housing projects which is
mostly been realised by real estate branches of international
banks.
12
After having acquired the land from 115 different owners an
international architecture competition was arranged. The German
developer of the Residential Park (Lindner Group) invited seven
architect offices (five international and two local offices) to present
their drafts for a gated and guarded housing estate. At the same
time the Lindner Group started intense negotiations with the local
urban planning institutions, which in contrast to the case of Moun-
tain View Village and Maxi Club Sofia were done in a transparent
and open manner. In fact, one could even follow them online. Later
on official relations between the developer, Sofia municipality and
the Bulgarian state even intensified and the Lindner Group re-
ceived 5.5 million Euros in subsidies.
‘We got a support from the state, because it [Residential Park Sofia]
was considered as a priority project and we got around 5.5 million
Euros. But we had to invest a lot! In a way it is a kind of public pri-
vate partnership. But we have actually invested a lot of money in
Business Park and Residential Park Sofia. So it is clearly a win-
win situation for both sides.’(AG, general manager of Residential
Park Sofia)
This so-called public private partnership is an interesting case
since it is the first time that public authorities have officially sup-
ported the construction of a privately governed gated and guarded
housing complex. The Lindner Group received money in order to
improve the local infrastructure by building a new bridge and to
construct new roads around the complex which shows that private
developers have also officially become major stakeholders of urban
development in Sofia.
13
This becomes even more apparent if one
considers that the Lindner Group is the developer of Bulgaria’s and
even South-eastern Europe’s largest office area called Business Park
Sofia that is located in the vicinity of the Residential Park Sofia.
14
Busi-
ness Park Sofia is the working place for around 10,000 people. It
accommodates all major multi-national companies which do busi-
ness in Bulgaria. And like the Residential Park Sofia it is a secured
Fig. 3. Inside Residential Park Sofia. Source: Author’s photograph, 2010.
12
The boom of gated communities is part of a large inflow of foreign-owned capital
in different economic sectors. Commentators have called it a new kind of accumu-
lation regime, because the Bulgarian economy is highly dependent on foreign capital
investments since the introduction of a new economic and fiscal policy in connection
with currency board in 1997 (Ivanova, 2009). Therefore, investment in real estate has
been an important source of revenue for the Bulgarian economy. In fact, foreign direct
investment in real estate amounted for almost 30% of all foreign direct investment
during 2006–2008 (own calculations; Ivanova, 2009).This massive inflow of foreign
capital has been predominantly provided by REITs (real estate investment trusts),
open and closed real estate funds. These new types of financial instruments have been
the major force of gated community production in Sofia since 2004–2005. They are
closely related to a general liberalization of capital movements which Bulgaria
introduced during EU accession. In fact, free movement of capital is one of the major
politico-economic cornerstones of the European Union. As a matter of fact Bulgaria
had to implement the European council directive 88/361/EEC which imposes on all EU
member states to deregulate their financial markets and to no longer tax cross-
national investments in real estate (Heeg, 2010).
13
Another example for this type of public-private relationship is the ceremonial
opening of Sofia’s second largest privately governed gated housing project Tsarigrad-
ski Complex by the Mayor of Sofia in relation with several subsidies for the
infrastructural improvement of the complex (Hirt, 2012; p. 159).
14
A large amount of residents of Residential Park has its workplace in Business Park
Sofia.
188 C. Smigiel / Cities 36 (2014) 182–192
Author's personal copy
complex surrounded by fences and equipped with a sophisticated
CCTV system.
Returning to the issue by which kind of arrangements these
complexes were constituted it is revealing to have a second look
at some legal aspects. In fact, the developer of Residential Park Sofia
did not only receive millions of Euros for constructing streets and
bridges, but even laws were changed in order to enable the subsi-
dising. At first the Ministry for Regional Development declared the
Residential Park Sofia a so-called priority project. Later on a special
law for the promotion of investment was passed. This opened up
the possibility to financially support this project. But all this could
only happen due to intense lobbying from the developer’s side as
the German architect of the Residential Park Sofia, who is also part
of the board of management of the Lindner Group, openly de-
scribes it:
‘It was a long fight to get all permits for Residential Park. And this
could only be achieved because of consistent lobbying. Our former
general manager, who is now Bulgaria’s Minister for regional
development, public infrastructure and road construction,
15
was
a key figure. He did an amazing job for our project.’(AH, architect
of Residential Park Sofia)
Lobbying is a major issue in other cases as well. However, it is
often executed through different channels. The case of Orchid Hills
illustrates that even international financial institutions are in-
volved. In fact, this gated and guarded housing complex was con-
structed by an internationally operating investor called Orchid
Developments Group, but the financing was done by the European
Bank for Reconstruction and Development, a publicly-owned bank
whose shareholders are 61 countries and two inter-governmental
organisations (European Community and European Investment
Bank). Moreover, the reputation of the EBRD played a crucial role
that the developer could acquire a large plot in a prestigious area
within the city boundaries as interviews have shown it. Besides
that this example shows that gated communities are not only pro-
duced by anonymous REITs and other types of real estate funds,
but that even international financial institutions are deeply in-
volved in its spreading.
Regulations
So far having mainly analysed the kind of relations that consti-
tute gated communities in Sofia, I will now turn to the question
how gated communities function. This requires a closer look at
the relations between developers and residents of gated communi-
ties. In this regard regulations play a central role concerning the
consolidation of gated communities. In fact, in all our three case
studies they are meant to sustain, to govern and to order these pri-
vate gated complexes.
But what do I mean by talking about regulations? The so-called
internal regulations are a kind of code of conduct that consists of
rules, prohibitions and sanctions. They act as a contract which is
introduced by the developers and has to be signed by the residents
when moving into the complex.
‘We do have internal regulations. They are obligatory for every-
body. They are very strict. And they regulate parking, speed limits,
parties, etc. Actually they talk about everything, because we want a
disciplined environment. For only a very few customers it is too
strict, but the large majority is here because of that. They appreci-
ate it [...] because they are fed up of having scandals with their
neighbours or somebody parking on their street.’(AG, general
manager of Residential Park Sofia)
‘There are cases that residents do not pay the management fee for 2
or 3 month. Then we impose a fine of 2.000 Euro. But there are also
other cases where people changed the sunshade which is an ele-
ment of the single-family houses. But it has to have always the
same colour. Anyway some residents changed it and we had to
impose a fine, because it is written in the regulations that you can-
not change exterior elements of your house or apartment.’ (AG,
general manager of Residential Park Sofia)
As one can see internal regulations are very detailed and func-
tion as a kind of constitution of gated communities. Furthermore
they contain, for example, when and how to use common spaces,
what are the responsibilities of owners, tenants, visitors, manage-
ment and service staff and even how to behave properly (Internal
regulations Residential Park Sofia, 2009). It becomes clear that reg-
ulations function as a form of governance that is meant to disci-
pline behaviour. Therefore, they can be interpreted as a powerful
instrument and a technique of power to govern space in a Foucaul-
tian sense (Hook & Vrdoljak, 2002). Especially international devel-
opers have introduced these forms of control that are intended to
create a disciplined landscape. Moreover, there is also a materialis-
tic explanation for the existence of internal regulations. By using
strict rules developers are able to secure the economic value of
the complex for a longer period. Probably even more important
is that the standardisation of behaviour enables the maximisation
of profit since it reduces costs and the necessity for the developer
to maintain and renovate.
Most of the residents interviewed perceive these forms of con-
trol rather positively. In fact, most of them mentioned that regula-
tions were major reasons for moving to a gated neighbourhood.
One argument we could hear often is the desire to escape out of
the ‘chaos of the Sofia’ as several interviewees called it. This corre-
sponds to the advertising of a gated community such as Residential
Park Sofia, which uses the argument of being a different space.
Fig. 4. Stakeholders and their arrangements during the first phase of gated
communities in Sofia. Source: Own illustration.
15
As mentioned earlier, the former general manager has recently been elected
President of Bulgaria.
C. Smigiel / Cities 36 (2014) 182–192 189
Author's personal copy
Furthermore the desire to escape from Sofia’s urban reality also
illustrates the willingness of an elite group to separate from socie-
tal issues. Residential Park Sofia is quite insightful in that sense
since it has already received the status of an independent residen-
tial district which is maybe just a first step of a longer process of
becoming an even more autonomous space.
‘We definitely are a small little town. Although we belong to the
Vitosha municipality we are considered administratively as an
independent unit like Mladost or other residential districts. In fact,
while coming here you have maybe seen the sign (residential dis-
trict) which indicates that we are an administratively independent
unit. This of course does not mean that we or our residents do not
pay taxes or are outside the municipality. The municipality comes
and collects the waste. We use the Sofia water and energy supply.
By the way, we have good relations with the mayor of Vitosha. But
it somehow describes our position.(AG, general manager of Res-
idential Park Sofia)
Do you think that independency would be an option in the future?’
(Author)
(laughs) ‘That’s hard to say and I think it’s not an option at the
moment.’ (AG, general manager of Residential Park Sofia)
Similar arguments and justifications regarding regulations and
control were mentioned by respondents in Mountain View Village
and Maxi Club Green City. Although these complexes do not have
such a written catalogue of regulations there exist several informal
codes of conduct that are supervised by the general assembly.
These regular meetings of owners function as a kind of parliament
of the gated complex. They also elect a management board that
operates as a kind of government of the complex. In fact, the board,
which usually consists of a few residents, can sanction and even
fine residents if the rules have been broken.
Conflicts/contradictions
Although this paper does not focus on residential issues of our
three case studies in particular, it is worth taking a short look at
their socio-economic background. Unsurprisingly the majority be-
longs to the upper strata of the Bulgarian population. And indeed,
already housing prices indicate that these complexes are produced
for a wealthy elite since there are not many people in Sofia who are
able to afford 150,000 Euros for an apartment (to start with the
cheapest apartment available in Residential Park Sofia) or to pay
at least 1100 Euros rent per month. Results of a household survey
we conducted in Maxi Club Green City confirm this picture.
16
30% of
the respondents answered that they could afford a second or third
car and secondary residence in Sofia. And almost 20% of the respon-
dents answered that they could afford any kind of luxury they would
like to have (Smigiel, 2010). Taking this socio-economic profile into
account it seems that these complexes are indeed communities of a
wealthy elite or an oasis of happiness as described in the
advertisements.
However, real life does not appear to be as simple as it is made
out to be. There are several areas of conflicts that emerge if we look
behind the walls. In fact, conflict seems to be a major part of life in
Fig. 5. Stakeholders and their arrangements during the second phase of gated community production in Sofia. Source: Own illustration.
16
The household survey focused on residents’ motives to move to the gated
complex, neighbour relations and socio-demographic parameters of the household.
190 C. Smigiel / Cities 36 (2014) 182–192
Author's personal copy
a gated community and a kind of relation that is an essential ele-
ment of gated housing. Even when we only look at the residents,
it is possible to reveal a few characteristics of these conflicts. First
of all, the relationships between neighbours are a potential source
of conflict. Very often neighbours quarrel because of divergent
interpretations of rules and regulations. This varies from where
and when to take a dog out to where to park the car or up to what
time social gathering is acceptable (Interview AH, resident of a
gated community). While these types of internal conflicts can be
found in other housing estates as well it is remarkable that con-
flicts in gated communities are mainly solved with the help of
security officers which Setha Low has called moral minimalism
(Low, 2003). Other sources of conflict are the relation between
owners and tenants or between childless inhabitants and families
with children. In all cases the presence of intermediaries (property
management, security officers, etc.) is used to settle a dispute. This
shows that we can speak of a juridification of relations between
neighbours since an argument is no longer carried out directly
and openly.
Another area of conflict concerns the relation between residents
and developer or residents and property management.
‘When we decided to move here the developers told us that this
would be a small gated housing complex with three or four apart-
ment houses. But the developers kept changing their plans all the
time. Instead of three or four apartment blocks, this area has
already nineteen now ... Actually we have been living on a
never-ending construction site for the last four years.’(AI, resident
of Maxi Club Green City)
Trying to generalise these arguments one can say that conflicts
reflect the ‘contradictory nature’ of gated and guarded housing es-
tates. They display a kind of contradiction which seems to be char-
acteristic for this type of housing. To use David Harvey’s
terminology, one could argue that contradiction is a particular type
of relation and production. It can be understood as ‘a union of two
or more internally related processes that simultaneously support
or undermine each other’ (Ollman, 1990, p. 49 in Harvey, 1996,
p. 52). And in fact, gated communities are produced by several
other contradictions. There is, for example, the promise of a new
urban lifestyle that unites individuality and community. Gated
communities are promoted to be the home for families with chil-
dren as well as the home for the single businessman or business-
woman. Furthermore one can read that crime and fear do not
exist anymore within gated complexes, but at the same time they
are heavily controlled landscapes with dozens of rules, regulations
and surveillance that one is reminded everyday about the danger-
ous world inside and outside. Moreover, advertisements and devel-
opers praise the heavenly landscape, the beauty of the
environment and the untouched nature of the complexes. How-
ever, gated communities appear as standardised and fully subordi-
nated, developed spaces.
Conclusion
Gated communities can be regarded as a symbol of Sofia’s urban
development in the last 15 years since they mirror the powerful
and variegated interplay between public and private stakeholders
as Bodnar and Molnar have shown it for Budapest (Bodnar & Mol-
nar, 2010). What we can learn from the case of Sofia is that an
explanation of these public–private linkages must go beyond a
weak–strong dichotomy. Although, Sofia’s gated communities have
been constructed by a powerful group of private stakeholders, they
were able to produce these segregated landscapes only because of
a neo-liberal policy setting whose main policy pillars are deregula-
tion, decentralisation, privatisation and commodification. The
roots of this urban policy model have been promoted since the
early 1990s by programmes, projects and strategies of interna-
tional institutions, such as the World Bank or the International
Monetary Fund or other transnational actors (consultancies, think
tanks, etc.). However, the local implementation has been done by
Sofia’s authorities such as urban politicians or urban planners. In-
deed, out-dated master plans, missing regulations concerning gat-
ing in residential areas and a general reluctance to resist financially
well-equipped private stakeholders have fuelled Sofia’s gated com-
munity boom. Besides that public authorities have recently begun
to subsidise gated communities and even to classify them as inde-
pendent administrative residential districts.
Moreover, the case of Sofia’s gated communities also shows Bul-
garia’s post-socialist transformation path in a nutshell. At the
beginning Sofia’s gated communities had been constructed exclu-
sively by Bulgarian businessmen who used informal arrangements
to acquire land in order to construct family compounds on one side
and to reinvest the revenues from the heydays of the predatory
capitalism in the 1990s on the other side. Since the mid 2000s for-
eign capital has been the major driving force behind the boom of
gated communities. In fact, globally operating real estate funds in
cooperation with international real estate developers are repro-
ducing standardised models of large-scale gated and guarded
housing estates for high-incomers. Although, several complexes re-
main unfinished or empty a new socio-spatial division has already
been created.
Having a last look behind the gates of Sofia’s gated communities
it gets obvious that these complexes cannot be labelled communi-
ties. Indeed, residents do not consider themselves as members of a
community. And many residents are even not interested in having
closer social relations with their neighbours as the large number of
conflicts and disputes among neighbours have shown it. However,
all residents as well as management of the gated complexes have a
strong identification with the complex. They perceive their gated
community as a prestigious neighbourhood, a progressive housing
concept and a new way of social ordering that some respondents
have even called a role-model for social organisation and urban
development in Sofia in general.
Acknowledgement
The paper is based on results of the author’s PhD thesis and of a
research project which was financed by the German Scientific
Foundation (DFG) (BR 1729/2-2).
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192 C. Smigiel / Cities 36 (2014) 182–192
... The spatial evolution, the conditions of fundamental political and economic transformation, and the restoration of private initiative caused a number of essential spatial issues, including large-scale conflicts concerning organisation of the urban space as a whole and separate neighbourhoods in particular. Various problems of Sofia's post-socialist transformation in broader geographical context have already been approached in international scholar literature: issues of spatial planning (Hirt 2007;Slaev and Nedovic-Budic 2017), emergence of gated communities (Hirt 2012;Smigiel 2014), transformation of residential space (Hirt and Stanilov 2007), challenges to market reform in housing (Tsenkova 2009), unevenness in the development of public transport (Plevris 2019), barriers to cycling in the urban space (Barnfield 2016), etc. ...
... Firstly, the study demonstrates through the internal cluster walls that the segregation performed by walls in GCs are directed not only at people living outside GCs (Roitman, 2005), but also towards people living within GCs in some cases. This is beside the fact that in the former case, the basis for the segregation is often predicated on far more structural issues like institutionalised racism (Durington, 2009;Landman, 2010), and exclusionary zoning and planning (Landman, 2004;Smigiel, 2013), while the latter seems to be inspired by differences in demographic (often nationality) and socio-economic (most income) considerations, under the guise of responding to different housing preferences. ...
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... Urban planning in the last three decades might have had heterogeneous agencies but all plans and programmes have followed a particular entrepreneurial version of city planning. It started with a lack of updated official planning documents as the city of Sofia introduced the first post-1989 master plan in (Smigiel 2014. 9) Consequently, land use changes, building and planning permissions or any other kind of judicial step was done without a long-term political vision of urban development for almost two decades of transformation which resulted in fragmented decision-making mostly executed by overstrained district-level authorities. ...
... The spatial evolution, the conditions of fundamental political and economic transformation, and the restoration of private initiative caused a number of essential spatial issues, including large-scale conflicts concerning organisation of the urban space as a whole and separate neighbourhoods in particular. Various problems of Sofia's post-socialist transformation in broader geographical context have already been approached in international scholar literature: issues of spatial planning (Hirt 2007;Slaev and Nedovic-Budic 2017), emergence of gated communities (Hirt 2012;Smigiel 2014), transformation of residential space (Hirt and Stanilov 2007), challenges to market reform in housing (Tsenkova 2009), unevenness in the development of public transport (Plevris 2019), barriers to cycling in the urban space (Barnfield 2016), etc. ...
Chapter
This chapter justifies the topicality and relevance of spatial conflicts and divisions in cities from the viewpoint of human geography and other branches of science dealing with spatial facets of urban development such as sociology, political science, and economics. Based on the analysis of publications regarding post-socialist cities, the author outlines the main themes in this well-developed interdisciplinary discourse. The author also stresses that despite its high research potential, we lack a separate domain that generates knowledge about conflicts in cities of East-Central Europe. Particular attention is paid to the global discourse of knowledge on contested and divided cities and the variety of currents and problems raised by scholars. The merits of the current book and its contribution to the process of maturing from conflicts and divisions in post-socialist cities as a prospective direction of future research are highlighted. Issues with high research potential include geopolitically- and ethnonationally-motivated conflicts and divisions, as well as topics related to current disputes about the heritage of multicultural cities, conflicts caused by competing interests in spatial planning under conditions of post-socialist transformation, globalisation, and European integration. Conflicts and divisions caused by post-socialist transformation and its long-lasting socio-spatial consequences make the missing link between post-socialist urban change and global discourses on contested and divided cities.
... Moreover, Gated Communities can be defined as a guarded place which is surrounded by wall or any kind of borders to be secured and controlled by security guards (Lai, 2016). Gated communities are demanded by people for various reasons such as protection, recreational facilities, ethnicity and services (Smigiel, 2014). According to Atkinson et al. (2005) the gated communities are the response to the fear of crime that are looking for status, privacy, and the potential investment. ...
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... For example, some academics suggest that gated communities can sometimes help deprived communities gain access to basic amenities and physical infrastructure (Sabatini & Salcedo, 2007;Salcedo & Torres, 2004) and help municipal governments raise more property taxes (McKenzie, 2007;Thuillier, 2005). However, others take a critical position, emphasizing how gated communities destroy the public realm (Caldeira, 1996;Low, 2006), segregate urban spaces into rich and poor enclaves (Mycoo, 2006;Smigiel, 2014), deprive people of their right to the city (Harvey, 2008), and break the social contract between the rich and poor . Thus, answering the above questions will hopefully put the credit for and criticisms against gated communities into context as we explore how their developers navigate the land administration and land-use planning system in Ghana, and how they engage with key actors involved in the development process. ...
Thesis
Full-text available
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The Nature of the Transition and the Significance of Cities in itSocialist Urbanization and the Transition in ContextState Socialist Cities and RegionsCities in the Transition: Housing and Land PrivatizationThe Emergent Capitalist City: A German Case StudyThe New Politics: Urban Social Movements and NationalismCities After SocialismNotes