] Applications for public rental housing were set to kick off on Jan.12, with 5,293 households nationwide to be provided a new opportunity.
Dubbed the “Happy House” plan, the move was one of the key pledges from disgraced President Park Geun-hye, who is currently facing an impeachment trial that could permanently remove her from office.
The plan is aimed to help young people and newlyweds acquire housing in areas with high residential demands due to proximity to workplaces and educational infrastructure that often makes it too expensive for them to afford.
Specifically, the plan targets university students, newlyweds and entrants in the labor market to help them find residence near their workplace or school.
Designated residences are situated near subway stations for an easy commute or industrial complexes with a large floating population.
It offers housing rent about 20-40 percent cheaper than is typical in the neighborhood, with residents being able to live there for up to 10 years.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, it has so far secured land lots to build some 140,000 units in 301 locations across the nation. It has completed construction approval for 102,000 of the units.
The ministry plans to receive applications for at least 20,000 units and have 10,000 households complete their moves into the houses within this year.
Despite the government’s explanation that they will utilize lots of public land to build the houses in order to lower housing costs, the overall plan has been met with vehement opposition from local residents, particularly those in southern Seoul where real estate prices are high. They cite fears of excessive or irrelevant development of the area and possible markdown of housing prices, among others.
In response, the ministry has explained that skyrocketing demand for the housing program justifies further expansion into the future.
The ministry has also explained that the Happy House plan differs from existing policies, such as permanent rental housing and national public housing, in that it has expanded the target and more efforts are being made for the Happy House residences to blend in better with the neighboring areas through urban regeneration and revitalization of the community.
For instance, the government is making further plans to build facilities such as day care centers, playgrounds and kid’s cafes in areas where newlyweds are expected to reside.
The Korea Land & Housing Corporation, in charge of the construction, also said “the convenient location and influx of the younger generation would be able to prevent the areas becoming slums.”
The government has also tightened the qualification process for applicants, by limiting the criteria to those with total assets of 219 million won ($183,400) or less, to include not only real estate and automobiles, but also other financial and monetary properties. For college students and young people who have entered the workforce, their assets must be 75 million won and 187 million won or less, respectively.
By Yim Ji-min/The Korea Herald(firstname.lastname@example.org