Housing in Seoul is expensive. Although the city continues to attract young people from across the nation and from countries around the world, the cost of housing here continues to soar with no end in sight. Moreover, the vast majority of young people living in the city actually earn far less than the “average monthly wage” reported in official statistics and the news media.
Housing is a major concern not only for young people who have just entered adulthood but also for young married couples, many of whom struggle to find affordable housing that can provide safety and comfort for themselves as well as the children they are about to raise. Housing is a significant burden for many groups of residents in Seoul, including young entrepreneurs, seniors without families to support them, and single-parent households with young children.
Having recognized the needs of these groups, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is now taking steps to address these housing issues by developing and providing affordable public housing tailored to the needs of diverse tenants.
|Winner of the Sir Robert Matthew Prize|
|UIA’s award for “improving the housing environment|
The term “Ieumchae,” referring to the public housing and childcare cooperative project for young families in Gayang-dong, was created by the tenants themselves and means “a house that links people.” All tenants are households with children that were aged three years or younger at the time the tenant recruitment campaign was launched. Raising young children can be both an exhilarating and exhausting experience, filled with innumerable and unexpected twists and turns. As they are all parents with young children, the tenants can depend on each another for help, and their children have playmates of similar ages.
There are currently four cooperative-type public housing projects for young people in Seoul today, located in Hongeun-dong, Hwagok-dong, Bukgajwa-dong, and Sinjeong-dong. Until now, public housing in the city had focused mostly on the elderly, newlyweds, and college and university students, leaving a large number of young recent graduates without the benefit of proper and affordable housing. Young people just entering the real world cannot afford the huge sums of money required for rental deposits, and are therefore forced to live in poor conditions. Seoul aims to solve this problem by organizing housing cooperatives for young people, inviting them to form vibrant communities in which they live and help each another.
There are five “Dojeonsuk” housing projects across Seoul today, including three in Seongbuk-gu, one in Yongdap-dong, Seongdong-gu, and another in Amsa-dong, Gangdong-gu. Literally meaning “housing for those who rise to new challenges,” Dojeonsuk housing provides both living and working spaces for young, aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to develop their ideas into viable businesses. Tenants are also offered additional benefits in the form of entrepreneurial subsidization and training support from the city government. Each housing project is equipped with common areas where tenants can gather together to discuss ideas and exchange information.
|Bird’s-eye view of the artists’ house|
Seoul City has set up a public housing project for artists in Jeongneung-dong, and another for theater actors in Samseon-dong, both neighborhoods in the borough of Seongbuk-gu. Designed to accommodate single-person households and families alike, these housing projects add to the vibrancy of the neighborhoods in which they are located by facilitating interactions and collaboration among artists and actors.
Even today, women living alone fear for their safety and privacy on a daily basis. To address this, Cheonwang Women Safety House provides a welcome relief for women who are afraid to walk home late at night or sleep in their rooms with their windows open on summer nights.
This public housing project exclusively for women offers a “safe return home” service (which escorts women back to their residence late at night) and is equipped with a host of the latest security systems, including: a parcel delivery station, which protects women against possible criminals disguised as deliverymen; double-layered and locked doors; security grilles over the windows; anti-burglary covers on pipes; and surveillance cameras installed at the main entrance, inside elevators, and in each corridor. Each room features a full-body mirror on the shoe cabinet, a sizable closet, and ample storage space.
|Mother-Child Safety House (Dongjak-gu)||Sinnae Healthcare House (façade)|
The first of its kind in Korea, Sinnae Healthcare House is a housing project that provides a complete gamut of medical care and services for the elderly and people with disabilities. An excellent example of barrier-free architectural design, this public housing project offers a wide variety of services tailored to each tenant’s needs, including recreation and learning programs, medical care and pharmaceuticals, and even patrols and surveillance in partnership with various local authorities and agencies, including: the Seoul Housing Corporation, Seoul Municipal Geriatric Care Center in Jungnang, Sinnae Senior Welfare Center, Wongwang Welfare Center for the Disabled, Yeongan Welfare Foundation, Jungnang Fire Station, Jungnang Police Station, Yongma Senior Welfare Center, Seoul Kkotdongne Foundation, and Sinnae Geriatric Care Center.
Korea’s first community housing dedicated to single mothers and their children, Mother-Child Safety House in Dongjak-gu provides not only affordable housing but also community rooms and facilities for children to use as well as emergency networks with the local police precincts and borough office in order to promote the safety of the tenants. Surveillance cameras, emergency alarms in all units, and a parcel station further help ensure the safety of the women and children living here. In addition, all units in the building are equipped with child-safe electrical outlets and fixtures to help prevent accidents involving children. The building even provides childcare support services for working, single mothers.
Slums in Seoul are overcrowded with despondent seniors, people with mental illnesses, alcoholics, and people with disabilities who are forced to live and cope with their circumstances on their own, confining their existence to tiny, unventilated, and unhygienic rooms. The city has set out to renovate these desolate neighborhoods in order to provide the residents with better housing and living conditions. Through pro bono work by architects and other such experts in Seoul, the city government has reinforced the structures of nearly collapsed buildings; repaired fire-prevention and electrical facilities to reduce the risk of fires; provided heating, insulation, and plumbing services; installed community kitchens and bathrooms; and signed five-year, rent-freeze agreements with lessors.
|Before renovation||After renovation|
|Seoul Housing Corporation organizes public idea contests related to customized public housing|
|Borough||Housing type||Individual unit size||Common areas|
|Gwanak||Elderly care home||Minimum 18 square meters for each tenant.||Available|
|Dongjak||Elderly care home||Minimum 18 square meters for each tenant.||Available|
|Geumcheon||Social mix public housing (seven wings)
-Seniors living alone
|-Minimum 18 square meters for seniors (one wing).
-17 to 30 square meters for young entrepreneurs (two wings).
-Minimum 30 square meters for newlyweds (four wings).
|G-Valley House (for G-Valley workers)||-17 to 30 square meters of exclusive space for tenants.
-For residents of Gasan-dong and Doksan-dong only.
|Seongbuk||Dojeonsuk||-17 to 30 square meters of exclusive space for tenants.
-Within one kilometer of Dojeonsuk III in Seongbuk-gu (located at 266-180, Jeongneung-dong, Seongbuk-gu).
In an effort to provide more affordable housing tailored to the needs of diverse tenant groups, Seoul Metropolitan City announced its plan in March 2016 to acquire more units in urban housing buildings. Working with borough offices, the city chose to offer these additional housing units largely to young people working for small- and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises, seniors living alone, and women in need of safe housing.
Borough offices will be responsible for recruiting and selecting tenants as well as for managing and maintaining the public housing facilities, while the Seoul Housing Corporation will provide major repair and renovation services and supervise the management and maintenance of the facilities. Over 70 percent of the new units will be in new buildings or buildings currently under construction, so that tenants will not have to wait too long to move into them. The city government has also recruited experts to help with auditing and inspecting the buildings it plans to acquire and assembled teams of quality inspectors to conduct inspections of the construction progress of all the different types of buildings, ensuring that tenants are provided with quality public housing.