The Cabinet yesterday proposed revised rules on farmland expropriation with a view to preventing indiscriminate development of arable land by turning it into non-agricultural use and ensuring the rights of displaced farmers.
Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), who presented an amendment to the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例) for discussion at a Cabinet meeting, said the government aimed to push the bill through before the legislature goes into recess in mid-December.
Jiang said the amendment by and large sought to answer public concerns over the expropriation of farmland in the wake of several controversial conversion projects in recent years.
The government proposed introducing an article to “preserve arable farmland” which stipulates that certain areas designated for agricultural and pasture uses cannot be targeted for conversion by land developers.
However, a long list of exception are to be made in the case of use by the military, transportation, public utilities, irrigation, sanitation and environmental protection or major construction projects approved by the Executive Yuan, Jiang said.
If the legislature passes the bill, land developers would be required to evaluate how their projects would impact an area in terms of economics, social-cultural effects, bio-diversity and the environment before a comprehensive assessment could be made as to whether a project is necessary and whether it brings with it countervailing public benefits.
The bill would also require that land developers negotiate prices with land owners facing expropriation based on market price, thereby addressing one of the major criticisms at present, that -government-declared valuations have been too low.
An additional article says that land developers are required to accommodate displaced low and middle-income families until they are able to find a place to settle down permanently either by providing them with temporarily accommodation, or rent and mortgage assistance.
The amendment would also allow land owners to opt for compensation in the form of land if they later decide that is preferable to any cash compensation.
To ensure and respect the wishes of farmers who want to continue farming after their farmland is expropriated, the bill said land developers should designate an area specifically for agriculture use in any expropriation project.
In related news, Jiang said that the Cabinet was also deliberating amendments to the Real Estate Broking Management Act (不動產經紀業管理條例) and the Statute for Equalization of Land Rights (平均地權條例), both of which would soon be referred to the legislature for review.
If passed, the two amendments and an amendment to the Land Administration Agent Act (地政士法), which is undergoing legislative review, could help establish a database of real-estate transaction prices that would serve as basis when determining a fair price for land subject to expropriation, Jiang said.