[EDITORIALS]Housing policy in chaosConstruction Minister Choo Byung-jik has announced that a new town will be built near Seoul to help reduce the upward pressure on housing prices. The result? In Geomdan, a potential site, a large group of buyers queued all night for a chance to buy apartments and prices shot through the roof.
At the other candidate sites, including Paju and Dongtan, prices of previously undesirable apartments raced to new record highs. In this chaos, the government’s goal of stabilizing apartment prices seems to have disappeared.
Until now, it has been common practice to do things more discretely. Public servants devising plans for a new town worked behind closed doors and made an announcement when they were ready; usually after conducting thorough field investigations and taking measures to prevent speculation.
However, the current construction minister decided on a different approach. Mr. Choo came into the briefing room and announced the new town plan as if he were making a casual conversation about the weather. It seems Mr. Choo regards the new town plan as mere child’s play. Apartment prices in the high-cost Gangnam district should drop now if the new town, as Mr. Choo claims, offers alternative housing for the residents of central Seoul. However, Gangnam prices are still climbing. The same goes for his helpful suggestion that people should buy Geomdan apartments now, which resulted in the chaotic speculation of the last few days.
The world has turned into a place where one would be a fool to trust what Mr. Choo says. Yet he has given himself 80 points out of a 100 when assessing his own real estate policy. One wonders whether he is confused and meant 80 out of 1,000, for that score would be closer to the truth.
Mr. Choo said he would establish infinite numbers of new towns if setting up just one or two fails to stabilize apartment prices. Like a lemming heading for the cliff’s edge, he seems to be intent on pushing forward with a plan that has not been well thought out.
It is becoming tiresome to list the failures of this government’s real estate policy and Mr. Choo is not even somebody who listens to constructive criticism.
When a minister is immune to warnings of danger ahead the rest of us must start to be scared whenever he opens his mouth. We urge someone to put the brakes on Mr. Choo. Given his record, it is horrifying that he has been the construction minister for such a long time while chaos has reigned all around him.