Stop the hypocrisyPresident Moon Jae-in’s remarks about the construction of public apartments has raised strong controversy. On a tour Friday of a 26-square-meter (280-square-feet) public apartment for rent in Hwaseong City, Gyeonggi, President Moon said the apartment is spacious enough even for newlyweds with two children. He was flanked by outgoing Land Minster Kim Hyun-mee and Byeon Chang-heum, a nominee for the post and former CEO of the state-owned Korea Land and Housing Corporation (LH). In reaction, the opposition criticized the president for forcing the people to “live without owning their homes after throwing away the ladders.” The Blue House and ruling party rebutted it saying that’s a “political distortion,” but that’s a lame excuse.
Vowing to “open the day of two million public apartments by 2022” on Friday, Moon said his administration will “build public units anyone wants to live in” by “easing the requirements for such apartments to include the middle class.” Instead of trying to find ways to correct his administration’s failed housing policy even after 24 sets of measures, Moon manifested his determination to press on with existing policies focused on controlling demand instead of increasing decent supply.
If the government dissuades people from owning homes and recommends they rent cheap public units instead, it cannot succeed. Despite an aggressive expansion of public housings over the past three and half years, the country’s housing prices are setting a new record day after day. The government supplied 429,000 cheap units last year alone, yet it ended up with soaring real estate prices.
Policies ignoring basic human instincts cannot succeed. Even if Moon keeps his promise to upgrade the quality of public apartments, the public doesn’t want government-supplied flats.
The results of the Land Ministry’s survey on people’s housing preferences in 2019 prove it. A majority of residents in public units were satisfied with low rent and no need to move often, but their desire to own their homes did not shrink at all. Eight out of 10 said they wanted to reside in their own homes. The research shows a critical limit to addressing soaring apartment prices if it is not backed by sufficient supply from the private sector.
And yet the president and land minister competitively praised the merits of public apartments for rent while regulating supplies from the private market. If public units are that satisfactory, how about the outgoing land minister or her successor selling their decent apartments and living in public apartments instead? The government must abandon their myopic and hypocritical attitudes first.