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Talk of the Day -- Urban Renewal Act needs update

2012/03/29 23:26:01

The forced demolition of two houses in Taipei City's Shihlin District on Wednesday has drawn public concern about whether the action has infringed upon people's constitutionally protected property rights and freedom of habitation.

The controversial case has also sparked calls for an urgent review of the existing Urban Renewal Act, especially Article 36 that allows a renewal project to be launched with the consent of more than 10 percent of the owners of the areas in question.

The Shihlin case followed a similar one in June 2010 when the city government forced demolition of a house on Taipei's Jingwen Street after three failed attempts to obtain the homeowner's consent to a redevelopment project.

The following are excerpts from a special report in the Thursday edition of the United Evening News on contentious urban rejuvenation issues:

Lin Chung-chieh, director of the Taipei city government's Urban Redevelopment Office, said the Shihlin project has drawn flaks mainly because the land developer had begun housing presale before conclusion of land acquisition negotiations.

Under the current housing construction regulations, builders can begun housing sales upon acquiring construction licenses.

The land developer was granted construction license for the Shihlin redevelopment plan, better known as "Wenlin Yuan" project, in 2009.

"We will review these two laws to see whether they contain mutually contradictory provisions," Lin said, adding that once his office finalize the review, it will ask the central government to take necessary steps if it finds any necessary updates or improvements to the existing laws or administrative procedures.

Another notable contentious point involved in the "Wenlin Yuan" project was that why the land of the Wang family was included in the plan without their prior consent.

Lin said his office will make further reviews to determine whether any flaws were involved in the process.

Chang Chin-oh, a National Chengchi University land administration professor, said Article 36 of the Urban Renewal Act should not become a land developers' profiteering tool.

"While the article should not be canceled, it needs to be updated to tighten restrictions on forced demolition," Chang said.

In his view, an urban redevelopment project could lead nowhere if a land developer is required to obtain prior consent of all of homeowners.

But he noted that the current 10-percent ratio is too generous for land developers.

"The percentage should be raised to require land developers to acquire the consent of more residents or homeowners with interests in the redevelopment project," he added.

Moreover, Chang said the government should launch education projects to help the public better understand the need for urban renewal and redevelopment.

The government should also craft a comprehensive mechanism to facilitate dialogue and consultations between homeowners and land developers, Chang urged. (March 29, 2012).

(By Sofia Wu)