Seoul's Metropolitan Gov't announced on Monday that it will re-evaluate its “New Town" projects through a series of feasibility studies that could ultimately determine their fate. During a press conference Seoul's Mayor Park Won-soon said that the city will hear from residents and landlords in 610 areas that have been designated for the project, which aims to create new residential areas after old ones are demolished(*).
Well, as I already said before: that's "possibly(??) a first step in the right direction"...
Today's Kyunghyang Shinmun wrote in its editorial the following:
Seoul's 'New Town' Policy's Concept and Direction Are Correct
Two days ago, Seoul City announced new policies for "New Towns" and development projects that change in an innovative way the existing framework for housing development.
This would change the system to one centered on residents, not land and house owners, and one centered on building communities and villages, not business value or total evictions.
Specifically, the city presented a plan that would lift the designations of the 610 of 1,300 designated new town, redevelopment or rebuilding zones where building plans have yet to be approved and instead push small-scale alternative rehabilitation projects, while strengthening support for places where plans are going well in order to enable them to proceed more quickly.
It also put forth residency right guarantee measures that included supplying public housing to tenants and others marginalized by housing refurbishment projects.
Seoul's new policy is praiseworthy in that it ends or reduces the great harm done by existing housing rehabilitation projects such as real estate speculation, mass production of evictees, rises in rent and the collapse of communities.
The problem is that there are many obstacles to Seoul's policies actually being carried out. This is because of the interests of local residents bitterly entwined in housing rehabilitation projects.
More than anything, the key to the success of the policy is the issue of dealing with sunk costs resulting from the lifting of the designation. In places designated redevelopment zones, local residents have already sunk much money into the projects no matter how little they may have actually progressed.
If Seoul lifts the designations now, it cannot but compensate the residents. Seoul has asked the central government for support, saying it cannot bear the costs given its financial condition, but the solution won't be easy. For the central government to support losses suffered in autonomous projects carried out by local residents requires amending laws and social agreements.
It won't be easy to relax amplified tensions, either, in cases where local residents' opinions differ, in the process of lifting designations.
As Mayor Park Won-soon said, the new policy is not a solution that will satisfy everyone. Still, we think that if it has fewer side-effects than the existing policy and is of a better direction, it's worth pushing somehow.
Seoul City must do its best to put the new policy into practice. If support from the government is necessary, the city shouldn't unilaterally announce the policy without sufficient prior negotiations with the government. It must persuade the government while it bows its head and begs.
The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs has already said accepting Seoul's request will be difficult. Seoul must keep in mind that if it pushes the new policy with only the justification that good things are good, the policy could flounder as even greater chaos is created. We call on Seoul to do its best.