Urban Renewal Act amended to streamline rebuilding process

05/14/2021 09:18 PM
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A property built with sea sands. File photo courtesy of Keelung City government
A property built with sea sands. File photo courtesy of Keelung City government

Taipei, May 14 (CNA) Lawmakers on Friday passed revisions to the Urban Renewal Act aimed at encouraging the reconstruction of old buildings and accelerating urban renewal by streamlining procedures and offering incentives.

The amendment of Articles 57, 61 and 65 of the act was proposed by the Cabinet in December 2020 to address the issue of existing buildings that do not meet earthquake resistance standards introduced after the deadly earthquake that hit central Taiwan on Sept. 21, 1999, the Ministry of the Interior said in a statement.

According to the ministry, there are over 36,200 such buildings of six floors or more built before the regulations requiring better earthquake resistance came into effect in December 1999.

The revisions also address properties built with sea sand, which have higher chloride ion content that speeds up rebar corrosion and undermines the safety of a building, the ministry said.

These issues would come into play in circumstances where an urban renewal project for an apartment building has already been approved, but some owners of the building's units hold out and refuse to allow the building to be demolished.

At present, the local government could be called to step in, but it would be required to consult and negotiate with the holdouts before any further steps could be taken, a potentially long and cumbersome process.

Under the revised law, if the building is deemed to be a threat to public safety because it does not meet earthquake standards or was built with sea sand, the local government could bypass the negotiation stage and directly demolish the building with the support of a majority of the owners of the building's units.

The law did not say how big of a majority would be needed.

Local governments will be given the authority to identify unsafe properties built with sea sand, because they are experienced enough to deal with the issue, the ministry said.

The ministry will consult experts and academics to establish regulations on how to classify a building as unsafe when it does not meet the existing earthquake resistance requirements, it said.

Another revision provided an added incentive for owners of units in substandard or unsafe buildings to rebuild, by increasing the maximum floor area allowed for any new construction.

Under existing laws, the floor area ratio -- the ratio of a building's total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the plot of land on which it is built -- allowed by local governments for urban renewal projects is 120 percent.

The revised law increases that to 130 percent. The additional space is usually sold to outside customers to defray or pay for rebuilding costs, so the more space allowed, the more the building's owners benefit.

Apart from the amendment, lawmakers also passed a resolution that urged the government to ensure that people's right to adequate housing under international conventions is protected when applying the new law.

(By Fan Cheng-hsiang, Lai Yu-chen and Kay Liu)

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