Sat, Mar 21, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Residents of MeHAS are spreading housing lies

By Chang Chin-oh 張金鶚

Residents of the MeHAS City (美河市) development project in New Taipei’s Xindian District (新店) say they do not want any provision of social housing in the complex. Some have proposed that if parts of the project are used for social housing, a wall should be built to separate rich and poor residents. Some residents want to sue the Taipei City Government, which has authority over the project, for channeling benefits to certain people, or for lowering their property values.

If these stories are true, there really is no such thing as housing justice in Taiwan.

Is it reasonable for MeHAS residents who oppose the provision of social housing to expect the Taipei City Government to compensate them for the price of their apartments?

A government may adopt various policies that affect markets negatively, such as levying a combined building and land sales tax or imposing more stringent mortgage rules. If real-estate prices fall as a result, construction companies, investors and even home buyers might complain that at the time they bought the property, the government did not inform them in advance that it would implement such policies. Would it be acceptable to demand compensation from the government for the price of their properties?

Surely when investing, people are responsible for any profits or losses they make.Besides, housing prices in the MeHAS project are still surging on a tide of intense speculation. What evidence is there, then, that the social housing issue is causing property values to fall?

If MeHAS owners object to social housing, would it be acceptable for them to build a wall to keep rich and poor residents apart? Such a move would clearly be in breach of relevant building laws, not to mention that it would not win majority approval at a unit owners’ meeting. Such a notion only serves to reinforce a stigma of segregation between rich and poor and actually cause non-social apartment prices to fall faster. The owners would then end up hurting others and themselves at the same time.

Third, it is absurd for MeHAS owners to want to sue the Taipei City Government for influence peddling, in an attempt to channel benefits to certain people. If they could do that, would it not mean that, with regard to all welfare policies, the city government should also be sued for trying to line the pockets of all social welfare organizations and affected social groups?

Helping disadvantaged city residents who cannot afford to buy homes by giving them a chance to rent is something that the city government ought to be doing, and would be negligent not to do so.

Fourth, it would be even more ridiculous to sue the city government for stigmatizing the MeHAS project so that owners cannot sell their apartments. Real-estate agents say that there is no such thing as an unmarketable house, only unmarketable prices. Besides, what proof is there that the MeHAS project has been stigmatized in any way?

If the minutes of the MeHAS management committee are to be believed, and if they were accepted and approved by the residents, then it is clear that the residents are the ones who think that MeHAS carries a stigma, not the government. Looked at from another angle, MeHAS owners are stigmatizing social housing. If so, should the city government not do something in response?

Faced with all these unreasonable notions, should the city government and the public not be doing more about it? If there is no response, the lies will be repeated so often that people start believing them. The most saddening and worrying aspect of all this is the way that social housing is being stigmatized in Taiwan.

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