Members of the Taiwan Association for the Justice of Urban Renewal (TAJUR) yesterday urged revision to the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例) to better protect individuals’ rights to property.
At a news conference held at the Legislative Yuan yesterday morning, three members of a family surnamed Wang, who live in Shilin District (士林), Taipei City, got down on their knees and pleaded: “We want to keep our home, please don’t take it!”
The three are worried that their family home could soon be torn down as part of an urban renewal project, which would essentially mean the demolition of all the buildings in their block to make way for the construction of a luxury high-rise apartment building.
Although the Wang family has never agreed to give up their residence, their protests and pleas have fallen on deaf ears, they said.
According to the Urban Renewal Act, as long as 80 percent of the property owners in a designated urban renewal site agree to the project, the properties of those who are opposed to it can be taken by force and the construction firm in charge of the renewal project has the right to ask the government for help to demolish their buildings.
Taipei City Urban Renewal Office official Chiang Chung-hsin (江中信) said that the developer of the urban renewal site where the Wang family home is located has applied for the city government’s help in tearing down the property by force.
“According to the law, we have to accept it when the developer applies for help. And yes, we’re preparing for a forced demolition, though we hope that the two sides will negotiate further,” Chiang said, adding that part of the operation includes mobilizing police officers.
“The Constitution protects a person’s right to property, which is also the basis of a democratic society,” said Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇), who attended the news conference. “However, in urban renewal, ownership doesn’t matter, even if you have the property ownership certificates in hand, your properties could still be taken away by force, and the government would stand on the side of the developers.”
Lee Chao-mei (李昭玫), a member of the TAJUR, called for the abolition of Articles 25.1 and 36 of the Urban Renewal Act, which authorize the government to assist developers to take over properties and demolish buildings by force if a certain percentage of the owners agree.
“Articles 25.1 and 36 are like knives to our neck,” Lee said. “They should be abolished so that people can live a more worry-free life.”
TAJUR president Peng Lung-san (彭龍三), whose house in Songshan District (松山), Taipei City, also faces an urban renewal proposal, said the problem with the current law is not only the forced takeovers and demolitions of properties, but also determining the real-estate value which is used to decide the compensation that a property owner receives from a developer.
“Although the law requires estimates from at least three appraisers, all three are hired by the developer, so the value estimation is usually made in favor of the developers, not the property owners,” he said.
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