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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Security still a concern in landed, gated and guarded projects

Pedestrian-friendly streets with pockets of green in Duta Nusantara, Sri Hartamas, developed by SP Setia.

Developers believe landed gated and guarded (G&G) projects are preferred for two main reasons: security and community living. However, they are quick to add that nothing is fool-proof.

All the developers spoken to have, at one time or another, promoted – or are promoting – G&G living. Developers interviewed, either by e-mail or visits, are E&O group (projects: Seventy Damansara, Idamansara, Seri Tanjung Pinang in Penang), Perdana ParkCity Sdn Bhd (Desa ParkCity), Glomac Bhd (Aman Suria), S P Setia Bhd (Setia Eco Park) and TA group (Idaman Villas and Damansara Idaman).

What the developers say:

E&O marketing & sales director K.C. Chong: G&G offers residents a more managed living environment, with features like security, privacy, landscaping and communal facilities. Residents can wander around easily, without worrying about speeding cars. Many of the better-managed residential estates organise social activities which help foster stronger communal links. This bond helps in enhancing the security aspects of the community.

The larger ones are usually masterplanned. Residents have prior knowledge of what’s in store in their neighbourhood, unlike non-master planned developments where you may see a set of commercial shophouses coming up after you have moved in. Well-designed and well-managed gated developments also tend to have strict rules on issues such as regulations and working hours for construction and renovation works, and building guidelines.

A prevalent feature is the very attractive landscaping incorporated in the streetscapes. Most of this landscaping are well maintained as the funds for doing this comes from the service charges which each homeowner pays into the communal funds.

SP Setia Bhd CEO and group MD Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin: Although G&G communities have started off as upscale developments, its popularity has resulted in many adaptations of the concept to cater to the needs of a broader segment of the market.

In masterplanning our Setia Alam project, we created small clusters of homes with only one single road entry/exit point. This is to facilitate the establishment later of a simple-security structure at relatively low cost such as a boom gate by the housebuyers themselves.

Some of our other projects are guarded but not gated. Essentially, there are different levels of security offered to meet the different needs of each segment of the market. At the highest level, the provision of perimeter fencing, CCTV and 24-hour security service will obviously involve quite a lot of expense. However, buyers can also choose less sophisticated options to suit their requirements.

Perdana ParkCity sales director Susan Tan: Communal facilities can be sustained with the force of law. The community concept is based on shared cost, which in turn, depends on the standard of services expected. With the provision of joint management corporation, provided for under the Strata Titles Act, property owners will decide on how much, and where, to spend.

However to reduce the maintenance cost, we feel that the local authorities should consider granting reduced assessments for such projects since maintenance of the internal roads, landscaping and facilities are borne by the residents and are no longer the responsibilities of the local authority.

Chong: Key security measures include a robust and well trained security force. Surveillance equipment must be in working condition at all times. Residents can help by taking simple precautions such as informing of expected visitors, reporting untoward incidents, conducting proper screening of employees and imposing a no-visitor rule for their helpers. The maintenance cost will commensurate with the range of amenities and services provided including the level of sophistication of the management and security systems. Potential owners/residents will need to assess their own requirements against the price that they are willing to pay.

Usually more experienced developers would set up, almost at the outset, residents associations on home owners associations, to involve the homeowners, which in turn decide on the level and quality of services they are comfortable with.

More often than not, these residents choose to increase the level of expenditure on essential facilities such as security and management of common facilities.

Tan: G&G projects are no different from condominium projects. Locking up the unit when they leave the house and activating the home security system should not be dismissed as unnecessary.

Chong: In many ways, gated communities are run very much the same way as condominiums. The difference lies in the attention given to the larger landscape of the residential estate, which could mean more grounds to cover for the security personnel and more landscaping.

Running costs may not necessarily be higher, because there are usually no lifts to maintain, no air-conditioned lobbies. The success of both types of developments depends essentially on the quality of management, set up initially by the developer, and is subsequently administered by the resident association.

A very important management tool is the Deed of Mutual Covenant, a document which the developer usually signs with the first purchaser, and subsequent house owners, which prescribes the way the development is managed.

It usually contains house rules, guidelines on house renovations, the administration of the community funds (collected from monthly service charges) election of office bearers, etc. The quality of the development does depend largely on the manner in which this management tool is utilised, for the ultimate benefit of the community.

Liew: It is a totally different product type and lifestyle living concept which appeals to a totally different group of buyers. On this note, it has to be said that buyers today are extremely well informed and increasingly sophisticated. Choices are made based on their individual needs, tastes and preferences as such it may be somewhat simplistic to merely differentiate between the two.

Glomac Bhd group executive vice-chairman Datuk Richard Fong: We are opening registration for 200 units of gated and guarded housing in Bangi. Our buyers are happy with Aman Suria. Since we handed the keys over to buyers, there have been no break-ins.

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)

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