Sun, May 28, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Housing for army vets is not fair for the rest

By T. Leveler

In order to take care of military personnel and their dependents, in 1972 the Ministry of National Defense promulgated the Operational Guidelines for the Reconstruction of Old Villages for Military Personnel and their Dependents (國軍老舊眷村重建試辦期間作業要點). Households in veterans' villages that were located on state-owned land were given a 70 percent government subsidy for the purchase of new housing in the villages, thus giving these people practically free housing in Taipei and other areas.

However, giving military households free housing had no legal foundation and violated Article 7 of the National Property Act (國有財產法), which says "The revenue and disposition of national property shall be handled in accordance with budgetary procedures; revenue should be given to the national treasury."

In the end, the Control Yuan was forced to correct the situation so that military households in the suburbs would receive more public support. In 1996, the Act Governing the Reconstruction of Old Villages for Military Personnel and their Dependents (國軍老舊眷村改建條例) was passed into law, legalizing an erstwhile unfair practice.

However, the Council of Grand Justices Interpretation No. 485 from 1999 which dealt with the act and its enforcement rules states: "In light of limited state resources, the legislation of social policies have to consider the following factors to make appropriate allocation of welfare resources: the economic and financial conditions of the state, the principle of resource utilization, and should also try to attend to the equity between beneficiaries and other people. The legislation should also consider the finances of the beneficiaries, income, costs for family support as well as the need for welfare and then regulate accordingly. It is forbidden to base the consideration of special treatment only on the specific position or status of the beneficiaries ... The legislative body should therefore revise any part of the above-mentioned act not in accord with the intent of this interpretation."

Not only has the Legislative Yuan failed to make a comprehensive revision, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chu Feng-chih (朱鳳芝) and other pan-blue legislators have recently insisted on amending Article 3 of the act in the name of ethnic integration. They want to expand the act to include 320,000 veterans with dependents but no housing, when in fact their benefits are already far better than those of farmers and workers.

If the amendment is passed, those veterans will be given a subsidy equivalent to 80 percent of a NT$4 million (US$125,000) house, or NT$3.2 million. This will impose a heavy financial burden on the government, somewhere in the region of NT$1.024 trillion.

Ever since the KMT government fled to Taiwan in 1949, local farmers and workers have suffered far worse living conditions than veterans and their dependents. On top of that, common people have to pay taxes and still do not enjoy housing subsidies.

If they really believe in and want ethnic integration, the first thing to do is abolish the Act Governing the Reconstruction of Old Villages for Military Personnel and their Dependents. In order not to add to the nation's already heavy financial burden, the government should stop paying out the multi-million dollar one-time subsidy to veteran households in order to alleviate the burden on all citizens, and instead use that money to offer loans to any ethnic group.

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