Mon, Nov 01, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Housing for top officials a headache

HOUSING SEARCH The Cabinet's request for funds to buy additional land in the premier's compound has raised anew the issue of finding good digs for bigwigs

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Executive Yuan's request for NT$218.1 million to purchase land in downtown Taipei to be the premier's permanent official residence has rekindled the problematic issue of housing for high-ranking government officials.

For the head of state, the problem was temporarily settled when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) moved into the Yushan Residence (玉山官邸), where former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) used to live when he was vice president and then president, between 1984 and 2000. The place was called the Taan Residence (大安官邸) during Lee's tenure.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) started searching for a new place to live after the legislature cut her housing budget in December 2000.

The lawmaking body passed a resolution requesting that the Executive Yuan locate an appropriate abode from state-owned houses for the vice president within a year.

After three years' strenuous search, she eventually moved into her current domicile on Jenai Road in March last year. The house used to be the residence of late vice president Chen Cheng (陳誠).

Since Premier Yu Shyi-kun and 43 of his entourage and security guards moved into a 100-ping complex on Jinhua Street in June 2002, he has been trying to select a permanent official residence for future premiers.

The house where he resides belonged to a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) general notorious for his bloody role in the 228 Massacre, Peng Meng-chi (彭孟緝), nicknamed the Butcher of Kaohsiung.

The Cabinet has managed to lease the complex free of charge from the Taiwan Provincial Government and National Property Bureau under the Ministry of Finance, which have been the legal owners of both the land and buildings since 1994 -- except for the plot of land owned by Taipei City's Liukong Water Conservation Association, which the Executive Yuan now wants to buy.

The house was used as a temporary residence for Taiwan Provincial Government officials since Peng's death in December 1997.

It had been recommended to Lu when she was searching for her official residence.

Yu, who served as secretary-general to the president at the time and was in charge of Lu's housing budget, opposed the proposal because of the high restoration and decoration fees, estimated at NT$100 million.

Yu now plans to spend NT$218.1 million to buy the 107m2 of land inside the compound currently owned by the Liu-kong Water Conservation Association.

The legislature's Budget Center said that the Executive Yuan should make better use of vacant state-owned houses. But it said that it understood Yu's proposal to find a permanent official residence for the premier.

According to the statistics obtained by the Taipei Times from the National Property Bureau under the Ministry of Finance, there are 87,390 official residences across the nation, many of them located in downtown Taipei. More than 85,000 were left vacant as of last year.

State-owned properties without specified purposes around the nation are measured at more than 269,000 hectares as of September. Of the total, about 118,000 hectares are located in northern Taiwan, while some 70,000 hectares are in central Taiwan and about 80,000 are in southern Taiwan.

Of the 118,000 hectares of properties located in northern Taiwan, nearly 239,000m2 of land and 39,700m2 of houses are situated in Taipei City, while about 340,000m2 of land and 33,800m2 of houses in Taipei County.

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