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Overhaul `New Town` Redevelopment Projects

Posted October. 18, 2010 10:54,   


A project to redevelop part of Seoul`s Wangsimni district began last week. Repeated delays because of disputes over compensation for land and home owners postponed the groundbreaking ceremony at the site eight years after the area was designated a facilitated redevelopment zone. No one knows when redevelopment projects in other areas will begin. Of 305 zones in 35 areas slated to get “new towns” promoted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government to improve the urban environment and housing conditions, the city has not broken ground in 206 zones. Gyeonggi Province has yet to complete land evaluation in 104 of 138 redevelopment zones.

Due to the slow progress in the projects, many houses in the prospective redevelopment zones have been left half demolished. In Seoul alone, about 4,200 houses, or 17 percent of all homes in the redevelopment zones, have been abandoned. Residents in neighboring areas fear the heightened possibility of juvenile delinquency and crime. The murder of a teenage girl in Busan occurred at an abandoned house in a redevelopment area.

Seoul initiated the new town projects in 2002 to improve the housing environment in old neighborhoods around northern Seoul, as some 30 years of property development were concentrated in southern Seoul. Critics said many redevelopment projects were simultaneously being carried out in various areas. Unfortunately, it took less than 10 years for such fears to become reality. The housing supply could not meet demand due to demolished houses in redevelopment zones and the fall in the number of small houses, so housing rents have surged.

If the new town projects are to be implemented smoothly, speculative funds should be invested in redevelopment zones on the expectation of higher property prices. Speculative investments were made in the past on the belief that real estate investment would never fail. In the 2008 general elections, candidates pledged to develop new towns in 26 areas in 48 electoral districts. Certain residents in those areas were forced to leave their old homes because they could not pay redevelopment contributions ranging from 100 million (89,887 U.S. dollars) to 300 million won (269,663 dollars). The redevelopment projects need review of who they are for if just 30 or 40 percent of the residents in those areas can stay there.

Experts forecast that the steady rise in property prices cannot continue. New town projects are no longer a profitable business. More than a few residents are opposed to their neighborhoods being designated as new towns. In the western Seoul suburb of Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, the city decided to hold a new round of hearings to listen to residents’ opinions given high opposition to the new town-style of redevelopment. Authorities should reconsider whether to continue the new town projects in areas with slow progress or uncertain prospects. Building similar-looking apartment complexes in the Seoul metropolitan area is undesirable in urban landscaping.