A Desperate Need for More Affordable Housing

김한영, 박해지l승인2017.05.10l수정2017.05.14 18:28l354호 1면







▲ Many youth are suffering from in adequate housing like slugs.

 We have a lot of rights guaranteed in our daily lives. However, we do not guarantee our own right to housing. Recently, youth housing deprivation has become a serious social issue. The rate of satisfaction with the residential environment for 20 somethings is 5.98 out of 10. In comparison the total average rate of satisfaction with residential housing in the city of Seoul is 6.16, according to 2015 statistics. The burden of housing expenses is particularly serious for this generation because they are already faced with poor employment circumstances and unstable incomes. Single-person households are increasing, with the number of multiplex housing units on the rise, but they are still living in inadequate conditions.

 The minimum standard for adequate housing is defined as a unit having a kitchen with running water and sewage, a bathroom and bathing facility and should be over 14m2 gross area for a single person household and over 26m2 for a double person home. Those not living in quarters that meet these minimum standards are deemed housing deprived and many of Korea’s youth fall into this category. They usually live in one bedroom Gosi-tels which are small rooms like a hotel for examiners or university students, semi basement rooms, or a dormitory. Since many students attend school or find work with companies far from their family homes, they have no choice but to stay in these substandard places.

 Split housing is also spreading throughout university towns. This is where youths act as a landlord renting out their extra rooms to earn an income. However, most split housing set ups are illegal, as they are remodeled cheaply, leaving the home with serious safety flaws. The buildings are also known for having no parking spaces, a lack of soundproof rooms, expensive maintenance fees, as well as incomplete fire hazard protection. This is because renovations designed to split the house up are done cheaply and rarely include the necessary fire extinguishers and emergency exits to keep residents safe. In 2006, a Gosi-tel in Jamsil-dong, Seoul, caught fire resulting in the deaths of 8 residents. Many experts indicated the accident was exacerbated by a lack of ventilation in the facility and the dense interior of the structure.

 The youth are also easily unprotected in rental contracts. The Dankook Herald (DKH) interviewed Han Kyul (Junior, Dept. of British and American Humanities) who was expelled from a private boarding house last year. The boarding house was run by an illegal leasing agent and she knew about that illegal situation. So, before she gathers evidence, the house owner expelled her to avoid notifying it. She moved into the house on March 2016, and signed a contract with the operator of the boarding house for occupancy of a room and use of common space. However, she later found out that her boarding home was actually an ordinary rental apartment that could not be used for personal leases. "I did find it strange that the landlord would not give me the boarding house's address before we met, but I still agreed to look at the place because of the reasonable rent." After she was notified that her contract was illegal, her landlord told her she had to leave immediately. With no advance warning her and her housemates were expelled from the flat in the middle of the semester. "We launched a complaint against the landlord, so we could receive compensation for the inconvenience. In the Gosi-tel, where I had to move into abruptly, I could not come to terms with my new circumstances, but I had to suffer until the end of the semester."

 This was a clear example of the problems students and other youth face with housing. Despite these problems, the government does have in place several programs that support youth housing efforts. The first policy is known as ‘Happy Housing’. Happy Housing is public rental housing for university students, newlyweds, and new employees. In 2017, about 20,000 households moved into Happy Housing units.

 In addition, the LH Youth Leasing Housing Rent provides security deposits and the Room Sharing Policy encourages students to share accommodation with senior citizens who live alone. However despite the existence of these worthy programs, the number of youth in need of financial support as compared to those who actually get it is significant.

 There is an urgent need for greater measures to deal with the housing crisis of our youth. So what can be done? The DKH interviewed Jo Hyeon-jun, an office manager of the ‘Minsnail Union’; a nonprofit private organization created to address the problems with youth housing.

 The DKH asked why youth housing rights are important. He stated that the problem of adequate housing for young people is a new social problem. While most government policies for dwellings have focused on stimulating the economy by supporting real estate businesses and property investments; they do not address the housing problems faced by young adults. Moreover, he said that in Korea, tenants, university students in particular, are less likely to have opportunities to stand up for their rights and secure protection against unfair housing treatment.

 Next, the DKH asked why the problem of youth housing is so prolific. He responded by pointing out current housing policies that protect tenant rights do not extend to the kinds of dwellings students and other young people can afford. According to him, the current laws only ensure the management and supervision of dwellings such as apartments while goshiwons, which are deemed as dormitories, do not fall under the existing rental housing laws. Furthermore, since the current rental housing system in the private market is less likely to be influenced by the government, young tenants are less likely to be provided support from them. Even if the landlord wants to raise the rent unreasonably, they have no power to refuse. Despite the existence of an official public housing system, only 1% of youth have had access to it.

 Finally, the DKH asked what he thought was needed to address this problem. He argued that the most important solution is to build practical dwellings for young people and provide useful information for tenants to better understand their rights so that they can deal with unfair practices and better protect themselves. Moreover since only 17% of university students have access to dormitories on campus, the government should encourage universities to expand the amount of housing available to students.

 While the younger generation is suffering from inadequate housing, many others are too. It is clear that the current dwelling system in Korea has problems and the Korean government desperately needs to revamp the system of protection for high risk tenants. Statistically, many independent tenants are young and there is simply not enough care put into addressing their housing needs Instead of the current system, the Korean government should find ways to rebuild a housing market that protects the rights of young people to secure safe and adequate housing. 

김한영, 박해지  dankookherald@gmail.com
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