Sun, Apr 08, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Legislator seeks Urban Renewal Act probe

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Protesters at the site of the recently demolished Wang family homes in Taipei’s Shilin District yesterday hang a banner calling for a review of the case and of the controversial Urban Renewal Act.

Photo: Huang Chi-hao, Taipei Times

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) said he planned to submit a request for a constitutional interpretation by the Council of Grand Justices of a few “problematic” provisions of the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例).

The initiative comes after the recent forced demolition by the Taipei City Government of two homes in Taipei City’s Shilin District (士林) owned by a family surnamed Wang (王) to make way for an urban renewal project.

The Wang family resisted moving from the homes in which they had lived for six generations, but their forced eviction was allowed to proceed because more than 90 percent of households in the area had already agreed to move.

Critics say the forcible eviction of the Wang family was a violation of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to property.

Lu said the case highlighted flaws in the Urban Renewal Act, which was initially aimed at facilitating urban renewal, but turned out to be an “incomprehensible piece of legislation.”

One of the provisions that could be unconstitutional is that it entitles developers to demarcate an area for urban renewal when they obtain the consent of a certain proportion of the owners of the private land or buildings in the area, and complete a legal procedure, Lu said.

As such, residents who oppose the project can be forced to move, which is against the Constitution, because it stipulates that freedom of residence is an essential constitutional right. The Constitution also guarantees people’s right to live, work and own property, he said.

“The Urban Renewal Act is being enacted based on the spirit of majority rule and it lacks mechanisms to protect the rights of a minority,” Lu said.

Another provision that could be unconstitutional is that the act gives local authorities the power to carry out demolition work if tenants who are against the project declined to leave their properties within a stipulated period of time, Lu said.

“The provision is in violation of fundamental human rights,” he said.

According to Lu, other flaws in the Urban Renewal Act are that developers are in control of the urban renewal system, as they can initiate urban renewal projects by organizing related public exhibitions and public hearings, and they can be granted construction licenses and also pre-sell units before all tenants agree to the development.

The problems highlighted in the Wang case showed that the provisions that allow private enterprises to initiate urban renewal projects in the name of the public good could be counter to the principle of proportionality, that is the means for legislation to strike a balance between public welfare and restrictions on individual rights, he said.

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