Following the controversial demolition of two homes in Taipei, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said yesterday the Ministry of the Interior plans to push for changes to the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例) within six months to make urban renewal measures more fair.
“More transparency is needed during the reviewing and working processes of urban renewal projects. The Ministry of the Interior will propose changes to the [urban renewal] law within the next six months,” Lee said on the sidelines of a visit to the National Airborne Service Corps in Greater Taichung.
“The revised law will provide a more clear definition of ‘public interest’ to prevent controversy like what has happened with the Wenlin Yuan (文林苑) building project from happening again,” he said.
“Hopefully, the amended law can be more socially just,” Lee added.
Lee was referring to the demolition of two two-story houses belonging to a family, surnamed Wang, in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林) on Wednesday to make way for an urban renewal project that will include a 15-story luxury apartment complex, named Wenlin Yuan, on the site.
Although the Wangs repeatedly refused to take part in the urban renewal project, they were forcibly evicted and their properties demolished, as — according to the Urban Renewal Act — 75 percent of property owners on the project’s site had agreed to it.
The law further allows the initiator of an urban renewal project to request that local authorities bulldoze buildings the site regardless of opposition.
Lee said that demolishing buildings by force is allowed in urban renewal projects because it is a way to promote public interests involved in the project.
“But right now, the law doesn’t clearly define what ‘public interests’ are and thus it could invite controversy,” he said. “That’s why I’m trying to push for revisions that would provide a better definition.”
Meanwhile, on his remark made on Thursday during an Internal Administration Committee meeting in the legislature that there were “some elements of injustice” in the demolition of the Wangs’ homes — which was interpreted as a criticism of the Taipei City Government’s handling of the issue — Lee yesterday said he did not mean to directly target the city government.
“I wasn’t talking about anyone or any government in particular, I was just making a general statement that there are elements of injustice involved in urban renewal in this country,” he said.