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Current Condition and Policy Direction for Low-Rise Residential Areas in Seoul

Da-Mi MaengㆍNam-Jong JangㆍCe-Na Baik


The low-rise residential area is a densely populated lower-floor residential space with five floors or less, and is distributed throughout the city of Seoul. The low-rise residential area covers 124.5㎢, accounting for 38.2% of the total residential area. There are about 337,000 low-rise houses in Seoul’s low-rise residential area. By type of occupancy, 46% area single-family and 54% multi-family houses. Buildings in Seoul’s low-rise residential areas are aging. 32% of them are over 30 years old.

During Seoul’s high-growth period, low-rise residential areas have continuously densified and building regulations and parking lot standards eased to revitalize the housing supply. Despite an increase in construction and household density due to the construction of new buildings, the living environment is worsening, because the infrastructure - such as roads, parking lots and open spaces – is deficient.

During the high-growth period, many multi-family houses were supplied and low-rise housing was gradually recognized as an affordable accommodation option. Also, the only means to manage low-rise residential areas during Seoul’s high-growth period have been redevelopment projects. Those areas not yet considered for restoration were regarded as a reserve for redevelopment. The management of the low-rise residential area was actually neglected because expectations for redevelopment projects were high. In addition, due to alienation from policies for residential area management, corresponding standards for low-rise residential areas was lacking.

On the other side, as the housing supply regulations relaxed, low-rise residential areas’ living environments degraded, due to continued densification without the improvement of infrastructure. In order to manage low-rise residential areas, Seoul’s areas are classified into four types, based on the need or urgency for public support, the possibility of self-management of housing, the form of residence, and the physical conditions of low-rise residential areas.

The first type is a spontaneously formed residence. On the whole, these are old houses becoming densely populated with a composition of poor and irregular small-scale parcels. The second type is similar to the first one in terms of infrastructure and parcels. However, new construction is taking place, mainly on parcels with good road conditions. The third type is a planned where old densely populated spaces are present, but the infrastructure do not suffice to meet the heightened density’s requirements. The last type is a planned development site, which comprises housing of various ages, sizes, and kinds induced by the continuous development of infrastructures and parcel condition.

However, with the changes of socio-economic conditions, such as the low growth rate, population decline, social aging, and increases of single-person households, it is necessary to change policy viewpoints. Low-rise residential areas are flexible spaces that can cope with diversified housing demands. In addition, tangible and intangible values such as history, location, and community in low-rise residential areas is one of Seoul’s greatest attractions. Policy viewpoints must change in various aspects to maintain, preserve, manage, and maintain the characteristics of low-rise residential areas.

Recently, a variety of public projects have been pursued as alternatives to improve sought-after residential environments, but they are limited to only a part of low-rise residential areas. Therefore, the quality of the housing and residential environment should be enhanced by incorporating entire low-rise residential areas in main policy targets.

In order to improve the quality of low-rise residential areas, it is necessary to activate the local management, based on the space characteristics and types. A variety of measures should be required to manage or redevelop neighborhoods, depending on the characteristics of the residential area. The role of a neighborhood plan should be re-established to function as a main management framework for residential areas. In addition, upgrading the guidance level for quality of life in low-rise residential areas is necessary. Finally, the role of administrators in the public sector should be differentiated into consultants, coordinators, managers, or conflict mediators.



01 Introduction

1_Background and Purpose

2_Research Scope and Methods


02 Analysis of Seoul’s Low-Rise Residential Areas

1_Review of Related Laws and Policies

2_Physical Status of Low-Rise Residential Areas

3_Characteristics of Residents in Low-Rise Residential Areas


03 Policy Issues of Seoul’s Low-Rise Residential Areas

1_Deficiency in Infrastructure

2_Density Increase

3_Aging Buildings

4_Monotonous Housing Type

5_Increase in Canceled Areas from Redevelopment Projects


04 Type Analysis of Seoul’s Low-Rise Residential Areas

1_Classification of Low-Rise Residential Areas

2_Type 1

3_Type 2

4_Type 3

5_Type 4

05 Policy Directions for Seoul’s Low-Rise Residential Areas

1_Policy Directions for Low-Rise Residential Areas

2_Policy Suggestions