East Asia Conference on Housing Welfare
Date: May 13, 2015 Venue: Seoul Metropolitan Government
Greetings, everyone! I am Park Won-soon, the Mayor of Seoul. I would like to express my gratitude to the head of the Seoul Institute Kim Soo-Hyun and all the staff for hosting this meaningful conference, whose theme is that of Solving the Housing Problems of the Poor in East Asian Cities, and whose purpose is to share major housing policies and their applied cases in the major cities of East Asia. I would also like to thank all the participants including the head of Urban Research Plaza at Osaka City University Ave Masaki, professor of National Taiwan University Whang Lee Ling, professor of Hong Kong Baptist University, Pungkockin, chief director of Min-Snail Union Kwon Ji-Woong, and the president of SH Corporation Byeon Chang-heum for attending this event in the hope of developing comprehensive housing welfare despite their busy schedules. Housing is a necessity for the survival of human beings, forming a backbone for our safety and development. A house allows our body and mind to live and rest, and is the best place for allowing our work and life to be guaranteed. In this context, housing rights are basic rights that should be enjoyed by all human beings.
Unfortunately, however, we face a bitter reality where various disasters, poverty, and conflicting interests in politics and economics have pushed so many people to become refugees, homeless men and women with nowhere to call home.
Seoul is not exempt from this tragic situation. We still have so many citizens with no guarantee of residential rights to speak of capable of supporting a safe and stable life, hopelessly leading their lives with their fundamental human dignity and rights unprotected.
That is why the Seoul Metropolitan Government is sparing no effort to support housing welfare and fulfill those rights accordingly. At the same time, it is trying to shift its focus from uniformly expanding quantity to improving quality in terms of housing supply policies.
To be more specific, we have seen 230,000 households of public rental housing (accounting for 6.5% of a total 3.54 million households) supplied. But to achieve more than our goal of 10% of the supply of public rental housing, which is the average level in OECD countries, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is striving to supply another 80,000 households (2014-2018), with 80,000 already provided as the first phase of public rental housing (2010-2014). Among them, 20,000 households of private rental housing will be provided through nurturing housing cooperatives and private rental housing businesses, and through developing various types of rental housing, such as housing with car-sharing schemes, shared housing, and modular housing.
In addition, the SMG is changing the current paradigm of housing policies by combining various public services. For those in the category of Second-Moderate Poverty who are not eligible for public rental housing, the SMG has expanded the financial support for housing. It also provides emergency rental assistance and runs group homes for individuals vulnerable to housing crises. By tightening the safety net for housing, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is strengthening the support of housing disadvantaged groups who are unfortunately slipping through the net.
Moreover, thanks to the governance of private-public partnerships mainly joined by urban district offices, community centers, and local activists, local housing networks have been built, paving the way for improving the quality of life and the satisfaction among public rental housing residents. In particular, it has supported the SH Corporation to become a newly well-positioned organization acting as a housing welfare expert in order to execute advanced housing welfare schemes by cooperating with Seoul citizens. For the sake of the protection of residential rights, it also has set up the Lease Dispute Arbitration Committee for the settlement of conflicts between landlords and tenants, and has introduced a standard form of lease agreement and the Advanced Lease System, which includes the calculation and notification of Jeonse conversion rates (a lease contract without monthly rental payment in Korea) to monthly rent.
It is true that in addition to Seoul, many other major cities have become modernized quickly and experienced rapid growth over a short period of time. Particularly, buildings constructed in the 1970s and the 1980s have been showing their age. As a result, we are now living in a time when regenerating housing through repairs and maintenance should be emphasized. That is why we will focus on urban regeneration instead of pursuing quantitative growth and physical development, so that we can keep the home as the center of our citizens’ lives, guarantee sustained cities and the safety of citizens, and make Seoul a city where people live together in harmony. Rather than developing cities and building landmarks, our urban planning is based on preserving memories through regeneration and sharing values through solidarity. Like the saying goes, “We build cities, but cities build our society,” we would like to apply a paradigm shift to open a new era to housing and urban planning.
We are determined to regenerate cities after fully understanding the very land, house, town, and area that allows each and every citizen’s life to go on. We will pursue co-existence and preservation-oriented urban regeneration, where human beings are considered to be the most important priority, and where they can lead a harmonized life with their surroundings. We will move forward to a path for consolidation and regeneration, leading us to another 200 years where local history and cultural assets are protected and utilized, and our economy, society, and safety are all taken into account together.
I hope that this conference will provide a platform where we can share each country’s housing policies in East Asia and offer creative and advanced suggestions for enhancing the dignity of human beings, especially in the category of housing. At the same time, I also hope that this conference will shed light on the direction the Seoul Metropolitan Government should take for better urban regeneration policies. I am looking forward to lively discussions among participants. Thank you.