The TV program Roommate is one of the most popular shows nowadays. On the program, twelve celebrities from various backgrounds live together in one house as roommates. In an era of increasing single-person households, this new lifestyle called ‘shared-housing’ is becoming popular among university students. Shared-housing is a new kind of housing culture where strangers live together in one house to lower the burden of lodging and to less lonely.
We Need a Better Place to Live
From the past to today, there are many problems related to student housing. Because there are not enough dormitory rooms for all students at Korea universities, many students have to opt for a boarding house or rent a bachelor’s apartment. According to Korea Higher Education Research Institute’s statistics, 72.6% of the university dormitory acceptance rate was lower than 30% of the total student enrollment. In other words, students from the provinces are unable to find sufficient lodging throughout their university years.1 Sookmyung Women’s University’s dormitory acceptance rate is 9.5%, which is lower than the private university average as well as the average among universities in the capital area. Also, Sookmyung Women’s University students may only stay in the dormitory for one year. Many students from the province have to find a place to stay. Since most university dormitories are not meeting the demands of students, students depend on boarding houses near campus or rent bachelor apartments. However, boarding house fees and bachelor apartment rents near campuses are expensive, which is quite burdensome for students. Park Charin, Department of Entrepreneurship ’14 said, “Beginning this year, I have to leave the school dormitory and find a place near campus to live. However, boarding houses and bachelor apartments nearby are extremely expensive, so my friends and I are pondering where to live.”
Not only has the TV program Roommate shown the public a new form of housing but many other dramas are also introducing various was of communal living. In addition to showing new lodging styles on TV, people are engaging in the styles in real life. As an alternative and solution for problems students encounter nowadays, new ways of communal living benefits all parties. Many private shared houses are being welcomed by students, district offices, and cities. In fact, new housing projects are being started to make a better housing culture. Nowon-gu started the project shared-housing, which connects students and single-elderly persons who have space in their homes that students can sublet. It benefits students since they can sublet a room at a reasonable price and the elderly because they are able to earn supplementary income from boarding the students. Last year, 14 students participated in this project and 10 of them decided to renew for another year. Another new way of living that had become popular among students is shared-housing: literally sharing a house with others. This new way of lodging allows people to share ownership of an apartment or become roommates who pay the rental fees together.
Let’s Live Together
This new living culture has gained popularity because it is an alternative way for the students looking for reasonably priced lodging. Many students nowadays prefer bachelor apartments over boarding houses because they provide more privacy and the facilities are better than in boarding houses. However, bachelor apartment prices are expensive. The average lease price near a campus in Seoul requires a one-time 10,000,000 won and a 400,000 monthly rent fee.2 Although facilities are in fairly good condition, the cost is a heavy burden for some students. Thus, some students inevitably have to stay in housing that is cheaper and in poor conditions. This situation has strengthened the new culture of shared housing. Kim Jungheon, representative of Woozoo, a shared-house company with 15 shared-homes located in Seoul, started the communal living business after seeing a friend’s poor living condition. Kim said, “My friend from Busan suffered housing problems after moving to Seoul. He had to bear expensive rental fees and poor housing conditions, which weakened his health. At first I felt it was his personal problem, but soon I found out that 13 million other students from the provinces outside Seoul experienced similar circumstances. Thus, our company is trying to solve the problem by making shared-homes.”3 This new living culture offers housing with great facilities and at good quality and a reasonable price. Also, since the shared houses are located in Seoul, students do not have to worry about commuting to schools. Another reason for the popularity of the new housing culture is that it fulfills the needs of all demanders. One of the biggest problems in Korea over the years is the single elderly household problem. In 2013, the population of seniors 65-year-old or older in Seoul is 1,167,000, forming 11.2% of the total population.4 As the number of the single elderly households increases, the need for urgent help increases. To solve the problem of the elderly housing problem and the problem of student lodging, people are supporting shared- housing. Rental fees are cheaper than current lodging fees. The average rental cost is about 200,000~250,000 won per month and does not require a lease deposit, which is approximately half of typical rental fees. Also, the elderly receive supplement income, gain assistance with chores, learn about modern technologies like the Internet, and so on. Since students live together in the same house, the elderly tend to be happier and less lonely. Mun Sukjin, Head of Seodaemun-gu said, “Our District (gu) started a shared- home project in order to lessen the loneliness of the elderly and the housing problems of students.”5
The last reason this trend is soaring is that it solves the loneliness of students who live alone. Students, who live alone, apart from their family, usually feel empty because they are always alone. Lee Chaeeun, majoring in Geography Education at Korea University ’14 said, “After entering university, I began life on my own. I felt great independence at first but as time passed, I felt lonely because my house was always empty.” Students who live alone usually face loneliness. Because of this reason, students are choosing to live in shared houses in order to have housemates. Choi Junkyu, who lives in a shared-house said, “Living alone in Seoul, the biggest problem was loneliness. In order to solve this problem I chose to live in a shared-house.”6 Similar to the shared housing culture, other shared cultures are emerging. Social dining or eating food with people from social networks who have similar interests has gained popularity among people tired of eating alone. Rather than enduring an awkward situation where people have nothing to talk about with strangers and just eating alone, social dining has become common. People with similar interests gather and become close as they eat and chat. Sahmyook University has a social dining club that meets every Monday and Wednesday and members eat together.
Living Together brings about Understanding
The new housing culture is a great alternative for students nowadays. Problems that have existed for a long time cannot be solved easily in a short time, but new alternatives help students. Also, as the new housing culture gains popularity, more and more alternatives will appear and lead to better solutions. In the past, Korean students did not have alternative living possibilities except boarding houses and bachelor apartments. However, as time passes, better alternatives, benefiting the demand and supply have appeared. Shared-housing started recently, but it will surely soon be a stepping stone to better solutions for students. Moreover, these new housing cultures are helping people form relationships among not only among peers but also among the various generations. Many people say pursuit of individualism has grown out of control these days, so relationships among people have suffered. However, the new cultures connect the generations via shared housing living. It is very difficult to bond with elders since it is hard to meet senior citizens frequently in everyday life. This problem has caused the two generations to grow further and further apart. It is not easy to find a solution to solve the problem. However, thanks to shared- housing projects, the wide gap between the generations is being narrowed. Park Taehwan, a Seodaemun-gu shared-housing project participant said, “After living with a student, who I now call my ‘my precious daughter,’ I feel younger.”7 Gatherings of the generations are difficult, but shared housing can help cultivate relationships among the different generation by cultivating understanding about the generations. Lastly, because students living in shared-houses with peers can share everyday life happenings with others, the walls of individualism will crack.
1 Kim Heejung, “Boarding Houses are Expensive... but Sharing a Home with the Elderly is Half that Price,” Moneytoday, Feburary 12, 2014
2 Lim Hyunyoung, “Boarding Houses in University Towns are On Sale,” Edaily, July 02, 2014
3 Cho Soyoung, “Let’s Live Together,” Allure Korea, October, 2014
4 Nam Hyungdo, “65,000 of Low Income Single Elderly Households, Warning Sign of Welfare,” Moneytoday, November 19, 2014
5 Seodaemunsinmun, “Seodaemun-gu Starts a House Sharing Project,” Seodaemungusinmun, July 23, 2014
6 See Footnote 5
7 Park Hyelim, “Living Together Like Mother and Daughter... Feels Like My Daughter who Went Abroad Came Back,” Herald Economy News, August 7, 2014