The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Minister Chung Hwang-keun, MAFRA) announced measures to revitalize rural empty homes at a meeting on current issues with relevant ministers on April 20th.
The measures are to devise a plan to revitalize vacant house maintenance in order to solve social problems on environment, hygiene, and safety caused by empty homes neglected in rural areas, aiming to create a pleasant and sustainable rural residential space by halving the number of empty houses by 2027.
Owners of empty homes, government, and businesses work together to refurbish vacant houses in rural areas by each village
MAFRA sets mid- to long-term goals* so that local governments can implement vacant house maintenance in rural areas, which lacked a plan from a long-term perspective so far, based on a five-year plan, and expands linkage with rural residential environment improvement policy projects for effective empty homes refurbishment.
* Aims to reduce the number of rural vacant houses to 33,000, which is 50% of the current number (66,000) by 2027.
In addition, the maintenance system, which had little effect on improving the residential environment due to point-by-point maintenance such as individual houses, will be converted to space (village) unit-based one.
In accordance with the Act on Support for Restructuring and Regeneration of Rural Spaces enacted in March, MAFRA will prioritize support for rural residential environment improvement projects for villages designated as ‘protected rural districts’ by mayors and county governors. In addition, a new plan is being reviewed for a ‘rural residential space regeneration project’ in which businesses and village maintenance cooperatives form a consortium and participate together. Along with the promotion of this project, the introduction of a policy finance system exclusively for vacant houses will also be reviewed.
MAFRA also plans to reshape the funds for housing improvement loans of the Rural Housing Improvement Project currently in operation and expand loan support such as group loans for the maintenance of vacant houses in village units.
* Referred to Empty Homes Loan in the U.K. (low-interest loans for home improvement costs for the houses that remain empty for 6 months or more)
From June, the government plans to expand the private sector’s participation in the public-led vacant house maintenance project by promoting the ‘Public-Private Joint Project for Vacant House Regeneration’ in which vacant house owners, the government and companies participate together. The project aims to regenerate rural communities by remodeling empty houses for rental housing for those who wish to return to farming or rural areas, spaces for children and youth, and hotels in villages. MAFRA has selected Haenam-gun, one of the counties that show pronounced declining population, as the first target site for the project, and will bring vacant houses back into use with E-Mart and the Foundation for Win-win Growth of Large, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Agriculture and Fisheries, with an aim to spread the efforts nationwide in the future.
* MAFRA will carry out a pilot project targeting two villages in Haenam-gun from June, discover additional participating companies in the second half of the year and spread the project nationwide.
Under the current Agricultural and Fishing Villages Improvement Act, the head of a local government can issue an order to demolish or renovate an empty house that hinders local safety or landscape. A revision of the law is under way to impose a compulsory penalty of less than 5 million won on vacant house owners who do not comply with the order of the head of the local government. With these amendments to the law implemented, it is expected that the voluntary maintenance carried out by empty house owners who are severely infringing on the public interest will be promoted.
* The government legislative amendment to the Agricultural and Fishing Villages Improvement Act submitted to the National Assembly (March 30).
Establishment of institutional foundation such as vacant house information platform and enactment of special law on vacant houses in rural areas
MAFRA will build a nationwide vacant house information platform with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries during the first half of this year to increase the public’s access to vacant house information. Once this platform is established, basic information on empty homes, such as the current status of vacant houses nationwide and by city and county will be available.
In the future, the Ministry will link this platform with local real estate companies to promote vacant house transactions by providing one-stop information on vacant houses, such as location, age, price, transportation, and related policy projects.
In 2024, the ‘Special Act on Rural Vacant Houses’ will be enacted for comprehensive management of vacant houses to make grounds for systematic management of vacant houses, such as establishing roles and responsibilities between the central and local governments, simplifying procedures for promptly implementing maintenance projects, and handling special cases for easing construction regulations.
MAFRA will operate a council with related ministries to check the implementation status of the measures so that the residential environment in rural areas can be significantly improved through the systematic implementation of the measures to revitalize rural empty homes.