The South Korean government has decided to allow the reconstruction of 50-story apartment buildings in Seoul and provide 132,000 homes in the Seoul metropolitan and nearby area by developing Taereung Golf Course in Nowon, Seoul. The plans to expand housing supply in the metropolitan and nearby area, which were presented by Minister Hong Nam-ki of Economy and Finance and relevant ministers included measures to promote reconstruction and redevelopment by raising the floor area ratio to 500 percent and allowing up to 50 stories in the case of public reconstruction, in which public institutions, such as Korea Land and Housing Corporation and Seoul Housing & Communities Corporation, participate.
Such measures are praise-worthy change as the government that has been focused on large-scale housing supply in the outskirts of Seoul, such as the third New Town project, is now paying attention to housing supply in Seoul. An increase in the floor area ratio leads to a higher number of homes – for example, 500 homes at the floor area ratio of 250 percent; 600 homes at 300 percent; and 1,000 homes at 500 percent. Many apartment complexes subject to reconstruction in Gangnam, Seoul had plans to build 50-story apartment buildings, but their progress was slow due to the 35-story restriction of the Seoul metropolitan government.
However, as public reconstruction is subject to strict regulations – the participation of public institutions is required and 50 to 70 percent of the increased floor area ratio needs to be donated – it is unclear how the private sector will react. Many reconstruction associations in Gangnam are already complaining that high-rise buildings with homes small in size and/or for rent only cause heavy traffic in parking lots.
The government also gathered empty lots, including Taereung Golf Course in the green belt, Camp Kim in Yongsan, and Road Traffic Authority western DMV in Mapo, to secure new sites for housing. Residents near Taereung Golf Course are against the plan saying that large-scale apartment complexes will cause traffic issues while it still remains unclear when the Camp Kim site will be returned from the United States Forces Korea. Rushed housing supply plans surely have a lot of challenges ahead.
In addition, the skyline of Seoul will change dramatically if 50-story apartment buildings line up along the Han River or near mountains. While it is important to stabilize the real estate market, policies that will heavily affect people’s lives should not be pursued in a haphazard way. Fifty-story buildings should be allowed in principle while maintaining appropriate heights of buildings by areas based on long-term city plans. It is also better for the city environment to raise old and low houses to medium-height buildings, rather than filling every empty space with apartment buildings. Some people even say that they hope the government simply does nothing whenever its real estate policy announcements are soon to be made. The government’s series of failed real estate policies have led to little faith in them. Rather than coming up with inadequate measures to simply avoid the problems at hand, more thoughtful plans are needed to prevent any damage to the future of Seoul