Go to contents

'Demolishing' policy loses favor to 'repairing' policy

Posted March. 05, 2024 07:53,   

Updated March. 05, 2024 07:53


The government has fully embraced reconstruction and redevelopment. Buildings older than 30 can embark on reconstruction without undergoing a safety inspection. The scope for urban renewal has broadened from the initial 51 locations, including first-generation new towns, to 108 nationwide locations, affecting 2.15 million households. Promises have been made to incentivize the process, such as designating prime districts and increasing the floor area ratio. Apartments previously facing reconstruction challenges are now hopeful, wondering, "Could our apartment be next?"

Yet, entering this metaphorical theme park, one is immediately confronted with a stark reality. Queues for popular attractions are dauntingly long. Fast-tracking the process comes at a steep cost. Complexes once delayed by safety inspections and other barriers are now entering the fray en masse, with priorities sharply defined by project viability. Projects of greater urgency or those that have been long in the queue might find themselves postponed. The present deceleration in reconstruction endeavors stems not from safety inspections but from a declining construction market and escalating costs impacting project viability.

Despite the outcomes, the government's incentives appear appealing to those initiating projects. There's no longer a need to consider alternative maintenance endeavors beyond reconstruction. Remodeling, which entails fixing structures while maintaining their integrity, is now sidelined, unlike the total demolition seen in reconstruction. Previously spotlighted as an alternative when the past administration enforced stringent regulations on reconstruction and redevelopment, it now fades into obscurity under the current government's pro-reconstruction stance. The realm of remodeling has seen projects stall and disputes arise between existing remodeling unions and new reconstruction advocacy committees.

Remodeling suffered a significant setback due to an authoritative interpretation by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport and the Legislative Affairs Office last July. The reclassification of converting the top floor and transforming the first floor into a piloti structure from a horizontal to a vertical expansion has had profound implications. Unlike horizontal expansions, which conclude with a primary safety inspection, vertical expansions necessitate a secondary inspection, increasing both cost and duration. Despite the construction sector's belief in the safety enhancements of piloti structures and structural reinforcements, the government's emphasis has leaned more towards a literal interpretation of regulations than scientific and technical evaluations.

The concept of apartment remodeling was first acknowledged in the 2001 Building Act Enforcement Decree and became formalized with the 2003 Housing Act amendment. Introduced as a safeguard against the unwarranted demolition of sound concrete structures, the remodeling framework and its regulations have seen little change over two decades. Despite notable advancements in construction technology, the government and political spheres have shown tepid enthusiasm for promoting remodeling, citing safety concerns.

For consumers, choosing reconstruction, which entails a complete rebuild, appears far more beneficial when conditions are equal. However, reconstructing every apartment is an impractical endeavor. Last year, Seoul City assessed that of 4,217 residential complexes, 3,087 were only suitable for remodeling, not full reconstruction. The need is to move beyond a back-and-forth between reconstruction and remodeling dictated by government policy towards a balanced approach. Expanding choices to allow for a sensible selection of maintenance strategies based on a complex's specific circumstances is essential. If the government persists in dangling the prospect of reconstruction to court voters pre-elections, it risks fostering unrealistic expectations and skewing the landscape of maintenance projects.