New towns fail to solve problems of urban life
The problems is the commute.
Lee Byeong-seong. 36, lives in Dongtan, a new town just outside Seoul, and he says getting to his office in Gangnam, southern Seoul, is far from easy.
“Even when I hurry, it takes me two hours by car,” Lee said. “The bus goes faster thanks to the exclusive bus lane, but when factoring the time I have to wait for the bus and also the time that I spend on transferring to another bus, it takes just about the same time as driving.”
A real estate agent within the new town, who didn’t wish to be named, said many young people including newly weds moved into the area because rent is cheaper than in Seoul. However, many are moving back to Seoul because commuting to work from Dongtan is inconvenient and time consuming.
Over the years numerous new towns in the metropolitan area have either been built or are waiting for development.
Some are concerned that the development of these new towns has been reckless and will get worse when the central government hands the rights to designate new towns to municipal governments next year.
“During local government elections, candidates could make excessive promises of developing new towns, or local governments could choose new town construction to stimulate regional economy, which in both cases could contribute to the limitless development of new towns,” said Lee Jae-guk, an architecture professor at Seoil College.
Hur Jae-wan, an urban design professor at Chung-Ang University, said there are already excessive numbers of new towns especially in the southeast outskirts of Seoul, such as Bundang, Dongtan, Gwanggyo and Wirye, which is to be completed in 2014 with over 400,000 apartments.
“These new towns lack self-sufficiency and after 10 years or so the towns will end up as housing areas for old people,” Hur said.
There are also several new towns in the northwest region outside Seoul including Gyoha in Paju and Geomdan in Incheon. Goyang, which already has a new town in Ilsan, is considering building another big new town.
The new towns lack the self-sufficiency that is needed to stop people from leaving the area. Each one has a commercial and business area that could make the region self-sufficient, but these areas are unpopular. For instance, Pangyo drew a lot of interest from home buyers when development started. Yet the two land areas designated as business districts, which were put up for sale in June, still haven’t found a buyer.
“It will be difficult to expect a new town to create jobs as long as regulations of building factories and offices in the outskirts of Seoul remain unchanged,” said Son Jae-young, a real estate professor at Konkuk University.
The previous government in an effort to balance the nation’s economic development promoted regulations that restricted the development of factories and business-related buildings in the outskirts of the capital.
Bundang and Ilsan, two of the early new towns, have been considered a success because they disperse the concentrated population in Seoul and boost the regional economy.
Built in the 1990s, Bundang and Ilsan were constructed when the housing supply ratio in Seoul and the neighboring metropolitan area was at 60 percent, which means the housing supply was in short supply, and the houses were better built than those in Seoul.
Today the situation is different. The housing supply ratio of the same region exceeds 90 percent. Additionally reconstructed apartments in Seoul by quality are competitive with those in new towns.
By Kim Young-hoon, Hwang Jeong-il JoongAng Ilbo [firstname.lastname@example.org]