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[CARD NEWS: Opinion]The real reasons for the shortage of affordable student housing

As university students struggle to find affordable housing, the government and universities are trying to build more dormitories to solve the problem. Their efforts are being blocked by local residents, often in an attempt to protect the income of local landlords.

Apr 19,2017
The real reasons for the shortage of affordable student housing


1) “I pay 420,000 won [$368] a month rental fee, and I can’t afford my living expenses even if I work all day long. I have no choice but to ask my parents for an allowance.”

A 25-year-old university student, who is from Busan and now living in Seoul, was unsuccessful in the lottery that randomly draws students who get to live in dormitories. After failing to get a place, he is now living in a basement studio.

2) What percentage of students in Seoul can be accommodated in dormitories?
10.9 percent (source: Seoul City Government)
The university dormitories in Seoul fall far short of accommodating the students in the area. The students who can’t get into the dorms have to search for housing on their own. The rental fees are usually high, and many of the students cannot afford the expense.

3) In an attempt to improve the economic and living circumstances for the students, the government and universities have been working together to build more dormitories. However, the plan faces a harsh backlash from local residents.

4) “If college students live in this area, they will drink and publicly display their affection. What will the kids learn watching such disorderly conduct?” — a local resident who opposes the dormitory construction.

A vacant space in Dongsomun-dong, Seongbuk District, central Seoul, has been empty for two months. The Happiness Dormitory, part of the government’s plan to build public dormitories for foreign students, is supposed to be built here. But construction hasn’t even begun as local residents are firmly against it.

5) “The residents are stubborn, and the district office totally neglects the situation. We are quite at a loss.” — an official at the Korea Student Aid Foundation

Another government attempt to build a public dormitory has been stuck in its initial stage as the local office is not cooperating with them. The Korea Student Aid Foundation announced its plan to build a dormitory in Eungbong-dong, Seongdong District, eastern Seoul, last October. However, the district office is reluctant to submit an application to the central government, as the office is concerned about residents’ harsh opposition.

6) Would the story be different if a school tries to build a dormitory on campus? Not really.
It was four years ago when Korea University first launched its plan to construct a dormitory on campus, but the district office has not given permission for the same reason as the others ― the local residents.

7) What the residents argue is that the construction would damage the local forest. The university suggested alternative measures to appease the residents’, but to no avail. What is the real reason behind their strong opposition?

8) “A majority of the opponents consist of local landlords. They are so stubborn that they are never willing to discuss the matter with the district office and the universities.” — Bang Joon-hyo, head of the Seoul City Government facilities department

The opposition is mainly due to local residents’ concerns that the dormitory will hold back the local house leasing business.
The government’s plan to reduce the financial burden for college students would possibly take away income for local landlords.

9) “The matter between the landlords’ demands to protect their business and the unaffordable housing cost for the students cannot easily be solved only with negotiation. In this case, the local public offices should be actively involved, considering which side of the argument is more socially marginalized.” — Woo Yoon-suk, a professor of the department of administration at Soongsil University

While the district offices should be at the core of resolving such controversies, the heads of the offices cannot help taking into account public opinion as they are elected by the local people. The local landlords, in particular, hold sway over local policies. The voices of the local people get louder and the students are pushed aside.

10) However, the situation is not all depressing. The Seoul City Government has started to take measures to mediate the conflict that is revolving around the dormitory construction at Chongshin University. This is the very first case of a public office actively intervening in this sort of conflict.

11) The roots of these conflicts are mostly about people following their own interests. As the local government has finally started to show an interest in the situation, the hopes of students searching for affordable housing are rising.


Directed by Lee Jeong-bong
Constructed by Kim Min-pyo
Designed by Bae Seok-yeoung
Translated by Son Min-young
Edited by Jim Bulley




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