[EDITORIALS]A row over new townsThe Ministry of Construction and Transportation and the Seoul Metropolitan Government are at odds over new town development projects in Gangbuk, or districts north of the Han River.
The Seoul city government proposed a new town special law, saying, “New town development is the most realistic idea to control housing prices.” It includes a request to finance half the cost of constructing roads, parks and other infrastructure from the national coffers. The ministry finds it difficult to agree to Seoul’s request because “it is tantamount to proposing better living conditions for Seoul only.”
New town development is a project that the Blue House has also promised to support. The government can’t leave backward areas in Gangbuk alone, and development of Gangbuk is effective for stabilizing housing prices. The city says the chances of success in supplying medium to large-size apartments and access to the center of the city are better for the new town than creating a new satellite city.
In the meantime, the city office has created misunderstanding. Prior to the general elections last year, it designated almost one new town in each district. That was criticized as aimed at gaining more votes. It was also bad that land prices in the new town area had surged. And the projects are now drifting due to lack of administrative support from the city government.
It is also difficult to understand the ministry’s logic. New town projects are not limited to Seoul. Major local governments are benchmarking Seoul’s new town, and it is likely that the project will emerge as a model for redeveloping city centers. “Seoul has slightly revised our urban infrastructure improvement law to prepare its new town special law” sounds unconvincing. People see it as an expression of the ministry’s egoism not to lose its initiative in housing policy. It will be even more problematic if it is motivated by a political logic: “If the new town succeeds, only the Seoul mayor’s popularity will rise.”
The ministry and Seoul government must stop the emotional confrontation and sit together coolheadedly. They must cool the heated housing market. The Seoul government must cooperate with the ministry. It must listen to the ministry’s warning that even the Gangbuk area could be affected by speculative investments because of the new town projects.