In 2012, I received news of six people committing suicide one after the other in a rental apartment complex in Seoul in 2012. It was really shocking.
I decided to find out for myself what was really happening in rental apartments.
For three days from September 11, 2012, I talked to about 500 residents in such apartments in Gangdong-gu, Cheongnyang-ri, and Gangseo-gu. I even stayed for a night at a rental apartment.
Afterward, I had officials at Seoul Metropolitan Government and SH Corporation come up with ideas that would help solve fundamentally the problems associated with rental apartments. We organized a task force team and checked and discussed opinions suggested by 200-plus people, including experts, local representatives, and social welfare workers on more than 20 occasions.
Last April, Seoul Metropolitan Government announced a comprehensive measure for the improvement of the conditions of people living in public rental apartments, with focus on ▴participation, ▴vitality, and ▴self-reliance.
The main idea of said measure was to concretize the relevant measures by 2014 with a view to making rental apartments in Seoul a welfare community where people really want to live and exchange warmhearted friendship with each other, rather than making case-by-case approaches sporadically.
Let me introduce a few of the measures that are being considered.
At present, the number of public rental apartments in Seoul stands at 193,000, i.e., 5.6% of the total number of homes. This means that finding a solution to the problems of rental apartments will change the lives of many Seoul residents. The core idea of these measures is creative innovation. The system of rental home management which has been monopolized by SH Corporation will be replaced with a competitive system. In some rental homes, current dwellers will be given the right to participate in management.
The monthly rental fees of permanent rental apartment complexes will be lowered by 20%. The monthly administrative expenses will be slashed by up to 30% through the use of miscellaneous revenues and reduction of the number of security guards.
Realistic support such as one free meal a day and an increase in the number of protective gear for repairing facilities will be provided to senior citizens who have no one to take care of them.
Concerning households whose head, the beneficiary of subsistence benefit, is dead, his/her child will be allowed to inherit the right to the rental apartment or move to another rental apartment.
With regard to permanent rental homes, which have been provided only to low-income households as beneficiary of subsistence benefit and disabled, the relevant regulation will be amended so that newlyweds or households with three children may apply (it was pointed out that people came to regard such rental homes as those for senior citizens or the less privileged under the current regulation). The new regulation will bring about genuine social mix in such complexes.
Local residents, neighborhood representatives, welfare workers, etc., will be encouraged to serve as monitors concerning the everyday life status of their neighbors and have expert organizations come to their aid when necessary.
Mental health promotion centers will be set up to carry out the following: ▴reinforcement of system for early detection of those likely to commit suicide, ▴proactive provision of the relevant consulting, ▴ prompt response to a situation wherein people’s lives are in danger, and ▴customized management of the relevant people.
Not only that we will provide unoccupied spaces in permanent rental home complexes to social businesses for proper management or use them as community facilities or as places for direct trading between neighbors as part of job creation efforts.
Hall for the elderly in permanent rental apartments will be utilized as a joint workroom considering the local situation.
Spaces left idle in permanent rental apartments will be used as miniature libraries, community kitchens, or book cafes.
This will be the first step toward the transformation of rental apartments into welfare communities.