Following a series of controversial decisions concerning urban renewal projects, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) has drafted amendments to the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例) — as the minister promised in March — aimed at better protecting the rights of property owners.
“To eliminate controversies surrounding urban renewal, after three conferences, five law-revision panel meetings and nine Cabinet meetings we have come up with a series of amendments to the Urban Renewal Act that we hope will go some way toward protecting the rights of all stakeholders,” Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) told a press conference at the ministry yesterday.
“Forty-eight out of 67 articles in the current law will be revised, 17 new clauses are to be added, while one article is to be removed,” he added.
At present, the law only offers minimal protection to property owners, especially those who are the subject of an urban renewal project.
For instance, the value of property is currently estimated by real estate appraisers hired by the construction firm that initiates the renewal project; a property owner opposed to an urban renewal -project is given just one opportunity to object; and as long as two thirds of land or property owners in a certain area agree to the project, the properties of those who are opposed to it can be seized by force, regardless of their owners’ wishes.
“In the draft amendments, the value of property has to be determined by appraisers hired by both the construction firm, or whoever initiates the project, and property owners, based on the estimated increased property value after the renewal,” he said. “The threshold for approval has also increased — four-fifths of the land or property owners involved must express consent before a project can now be approved.”
In addition, land or property owners will be given more opportunities to express their opposition to a project and when there is dispute, the courts will have the final say, Lee said.
Construction and Planning Agency Director-General Yeh Shih-wen (葉世文) said that while the current law leaves it to the initiator of a urban renewal project — usually a construction firm — and property owners to resolve their disputes, the proposed amendments would include government and court intervention if the two sides fail to come to a mutually acceptable solution.
Urban renewal issues attracted considerable public attention in March when the homes of the Wang (王) family in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林) were demolished to make way for a construction firm-initiated urban renewal project, despite the strenuous objections of the family.
The Taipei City Government said the Wangs did not express their opposition soon enough and were thus considered to have legally consented to the project. Also, because three-fourths of the -residents in the area agreed to it, the opposition of the Wangs was legally invalid.
The forced demolition of their properties, which came after physical clashes between more than 1,000 police officers and as many as 400 supporters of the Wang family, triggered a public outrage.
The city government later admitted there were “deficiencies” with the urban renewal law and the minister promised to come up with amendments to be presented to the legislature.