Tuesday, December 12, 2017

We reject as false the choice between our welfare and our well being

Seoul city is about to sacrifice more of its ever shrinking 'green belt' areas.

This is by no means a new phenomenon. For instance, seven years ago, tens of millions of square meters of these protected lots were destroyed to build more homes, including some for low income families (see "Tighten your greenbelt").

But back then, 'New Town' models were still all the rage, Korea was not yet sitting on an oversupply of one million dwellings, and the population of Seoul was not shrinking.

Which, of course, is the case right now. And to add insult to injury, most of this will be done in the name of social housing. As if the only way to extend welfare was to destroy our environment. Worse: it contributes to real estate speculation across neighborhoods that were relatively spared until now.

Seoul just announced that 15,582㎡ of greenbelt land shall be dismantled around roads in Dobong-gu, Jungang-gu, Gangseo-gu, Gangnam-gu, and Seocho-gu.
Seoul and Korea to sacrifice 40 more of its greenbelt areas for social housing... while there's an oversupply of dwellings! Something is definitely rotten in Korea real estate - this shouldn't be about welfare vs well being and environment! (tweet to Mayor PARK Won-soon - 20171128 - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/935712198495584258)
There is a shortage in social housing, but also an oversupply in housing. So instead of digging deeper into failed and costly urban models, wouldn't it be smarter to give incentives to landlords to increase the proportion of existing dwellings devoted to that purpose? Not in new ghettos, but across the city's neighborhoods?

It's also time to cure the country's addiction to building in new spots when so many neighborhoods and structures are falling apart. What happened to interesting initiatives to help struggling landlords do more or better? In "Seoul to tap into vacant homes pool", I already mentioned the potential of housing cooperatives, particularly for dense 'villa' neighborhoods, but it's hard to find a political will to shift away from old models*.

Seoul Village 2017
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* even if I'm not forgetting the promising 'human town' concept (see "OH Se-hoon launches the "Seoul Human Town" concept" or "Inhuman, all too human Seoul").

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