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[Editorial] Rental crisis

The cost of renting a home is going through the roof. But top economic policymakers do not appear to be much concerned about the rise in rent. They are either ignoring what has developed into a crisis or are ill-informed about it.

According to a survey of housing-price trends by Kookmin Bank, rents rose an average 0.2 percent throughout the nation during the week ending on Jan. 3. The bank said they had been on the rise for the 23rd consecutive month. Last year, they gained 7.1 percent, an eight-year high.

The nationwide increases fail to reflect the rent crisis that residents in and around Seoul face. A resident in northern Seoul is quoted as saying that the deposit for the home he rented two years ago has doubled to 400 million won and that his family will have to move from the capital to a remote, affordable place in the suburbs.

President Lee Myung-bak’s administration has repeatedly promised to improve the housing conditions, shifting its policy from home ownership to renting. But families in and around Seoul are finding it increasingly difficult to rent homes at reasonable prices.

The minister responsible for housing acknowledges this problem, but he is quick to say it is only a passing phenomenon. The administration has recently promised to make more loans available to those renting homes and build more homes for renting. But this leisurely policy hardly addresses the immediate problem confronting the hard-pressed families in search of homes.

This is not to say the administration is misguided in promoting a policy focusing on rental housing. Instead, it has failed to meet the growing demand. As a makeshift attempt to alleviate the housing problem, the administration may well study the possibility of making a sizable portion of the 30,000 unsold new apartments in Seoul’s suburbs available for rent.