A city in South Korea offers small apartments for $11 a month. Why doesn’t Australia do the same?

A city in South Korea offers small apartments for  a month.  Why doesn’t Australia do the same?

It’s a story of two of the least affordable real estate markets in the world.

Sydney is home to some of the country’s best-known landmarks, beautiful beaches and an enviable lifestyle.

And if you’re looking to buy an apartment in the coveted city, you could receive around $1 million for the privilege.

That’s the average price of an apartment in the 2000 zip code, or if you’re looking to rent, $700 per week.

Meanwhile, in Seoul, a bustling South Korea known for its own monuments, beaches and lifestyle, the average price is about $800 per week.

But in a small suburb within the city, an apartment costs $11 a month.

A view of the Seoul skyline with the mountains in the background

Seoul’s real estate market has been under considerable pressure since the 2020 pandemic.(ABC News: Mitch Denman Woolnough)

A life changing project

The Sydney and Seoul property markets are some of the most competitive in the world.

In Sydney, a typical household would spend about 13 years of their income buying a median-priced home.

In Seoul, South Korea, it is 15 years.

Almost one in three Australian households are renters. In Seoul, local government has become part of the solution.

The Yangnyeong Youth House consists of 36 apartments and was created by the Seoul District with money from its own internal public works corporation, Korea Dongjak Corporation.

It offers heavily subsidized studios built for young South Koreans who can’t afford to live in the capital, where the average single-person unit in university neighborhoods can typically cost up to $700.

The apartments are small (about 20 square meters), but winning residency is like winning the lottery for some Seoulites.

College senior Kim Do-yeon was one of 700 people who applied for the means-tested apartment and told the LA Times it was a relief to be able to stay in the city where she studied and worked.

“Everyone around me wants to get into a public apartment… I applied to five other places before I got this one,” he said.

For many, the $11 apartment is life-changing and all 36 units are already occupied.

A woman stands outside an apartment block on a sunny day.

Residents of the Marrickville project moved in earlier this year, with rents significantly lower than the suburb’s average price.(ABC Radio Sydney: Rosemary Bolger)

Closer to home, in Australia, there is a similar project based in Marrickville, New South Wales.

Created by nonprofit organizations Fresh Hope Communities and Nightingale, it is a public housing project with more than 50 25-square-meter mini-apartments offered at a subsidized cost to low-income tenants.

Those living in the project pay between $395 and $440 a week, and the units are comparable in size to those offered at the Yangnyeong Youth House.

However, planning, investing and constructing the project has been a challenge for the two nonprofits running it.

Aware , updated