Therefore, the Wenlin case should be at the top of the Taipei City Government’s agenda.
Consultation is one of the core concepts of urban renewal. Up to now, a consultative mechanism has been missing in the Wenlin Yuan case, so now is the time to build one.
Of course, the city government has become a party to the dispute by carrying out the forced demolition and it has lost the trust of the original parties in the case. However, it does not have to play the role of mediator; it could instead take the lead in promoting mediation by inviting impartial and objective people to form a team of mediators. The members of such a committee would have to be acceptable to the disputing parties.
Through a series of mediation meetings, there could be a chance to unravel this tangled dispute, or even set a model for consultation in urban renewal.
Consultation also requires that parties to a dispute are willing to make compromises, since resolution of a conflict needs a little give and take. For mediation to work, there can be no preconditions. Each side must be willing to give something up.
All possible solutions should be considered, including rebuilding the house on its original site, rebuilding it somewhere else, resettling the family elsewhere, persuading them to participate in the urban renewal project, compensating them for the damage they have suffered, and so on.
None of these possibilities should be mandatory options, and each should be assessed by impartial mediators so as to analyze their advantages and disadvantages, and their feasibility. Only then will acceptable solutions be found.
In commercial negotiations, information-based assessments such as these are extremely important. Only on the basis of a full and accurate cost-benefit analysis can the negotiating parties fully consider their own interests and avoid having unrealistic expectations in place of rational thinking.
Gathering the needed information will cost money. Given that the residents in the Wenlin Yuan dispute are at an economic disadvantage compared with the construction company, it would be reasonable to ask the company to take the lead in covering at least part of the costs of a professional assessment.
If sufficient information leads to a solution to the dispute, it will prove to be a worthwhile investment.
The government should be more proactive and farsighted by setting up a platform for consultation, so that the parties to the dispute can use that platform to seek a resolution to the conflict.
If not, it will give people the impression that Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) is incapable of solving problems. More than that, it will interfere with the progress of urban renewal, and that will not be in the interest of the public.
Chang Chin-oh is a professor in the Department of Land Economics at National Chengchi University. Tsai Chih-yang is an attorney at law.
Translated by Julian Clegg