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Status and Management of Seoul’s Empty Homes for Neighborhood Regeneration

Nam-Jong JangㆍSu-Youn Seong

Recently, the number of empty homes has been increased in the New Town and Redevelopment-Cancelled Areas of Seoul. In general, the presence of empty homes in local cities is caused by social aging, housing damage, and the decline of the original town center, but these empty homes in Seoul are the result of the lifting of the New Town and Redevelopment projects. According to the National Statistical Office, the number of empty homes in Seoul stood at 9.5 million in 2016(this accounts for more than 3% of total housing).
With the passage of the ‘Act on Special Cases Concerning Support for Empty Homes Management’, the conditions of policies for the regeneration of low-rise residential areas are changing. The Act defines an empty home as a ‘home that is not occupied or not used for more than one year from the date when the mayor or district director confirms whether it is occupied or used’.
It is estimated that there are around 3,000 such empty homes in Seoul, which need to be managed with some policy, but it is difficult to grasp the exact number. It is thus necessary to identify the number of empty homes through an empty homes survey, and when investigating this number, local characteristics and usability should be considered together as well. In particular, a detailed review of the cancelled area is required.
According to the analysis, there are empty homes in some parts of cancelled area in Seoul, with 76% of these being old and deteriorated bad structures that could collapse. Further, 79% of roads were exposed to a narrow width fewer than two meters. In addition, more than 70% of empty homes are left unattended for a long time, which can negatively affect the surrounding area.
In order to improve these empty homes, it is necessary to apply type-by-type methods that take into account the distribution of these homes, the ownership status of these homes, and the availability of building permits. In addition, guidelines for establishing an empty homes management plan need to be specific, taking into account the characteristics of the empty homes and the urgency of improvement in each area. 
For the sake of community regeneration, the issue of empty homes needs to be addressed. For example, there is a need to provide affordable housing for young people, facilities that the residents need, and facilities that boost the vitality of communities by utilizing homes or vacant lots.
In addition, the operation requires the establishment of a business structure that is operated and managed by the Neighborhood Regeneration Corporation(NRC). For example, an empty home owner may lease land to the NRC for a long time, while the NRC pays the owner land use fee every month.
Meanwhile, statistics alone lead to limited understanding of the status of empty homes, and it is difficult to closely examine how to manage and utilise them. Thus statistical data shall be reviewed in conjunction with the building register in order to further clarify the estimated empty homes and to finalize the empty homes by checking the sites of the estimated empty homes and their surroundings.
Finally, the government should provide empty home information through ‘Seoul’s Empty Home Bank’ and encourage the active trading of empty homes.