After participating in a five-day series of workshops, four experts from the Netherlands yesterday shared their expertise and experience with local non-government organizations, government officials and residents on Taipei City Government’s large-scale renovation plans which will turn the 40-year-old An-kang (安康) public housing complex into a series of model social housing projects.
Organized by Urban Re-s (OURs) and the Social Housing Advocacy Consortium, the events are the first in a series of forums aimed at providing practical advice on the city government’s social housing projects.
Located off Muzha Road (木柵路) in Wenshan District (文山), the An-kang housing complex offers affordable rental units to about 700 low-income households. When the renovation is complete, the public rental housing project will accommodate up to 3,300 households. An MRT line planned to run along nearby Muzha Road would bring further potential to the neighborhood, said Peng Yang-kae (彭揚凱), OURs secretary general.
The renovation is divided into three stages, with the first stage scheduled for completion by the end of 2014.
The city government plans to build 45,000 public rental housing units over the next 25 to 30 years, Taipei City Urban Development Department Commissioner Ting Yu-chun (丁育群) said.
The Dutch experts said one of the major considerations has to be flexibility and for projects to allow diversity.
“Social housing started in [the Netherlands] in 1901. We had built high-rise, unified apartments, but we have learned our lessons. The notion of differentiation is important: differentiation in things such as rent levels, architectural design, welfare services and unit functions,” said Jeroen van der Veer, vice director of the Amsterdam Federation of Housing Associations, comprising eight non-profit housing associations responsible for building and managing Amsterdam’s social rental dwellings.
Jeroen Atteveld, an architect who has worked closely with the federation, called on the government to extend the preparatory period so as to incorporate viable ideas and suggestions.
“My main concern is: How it is possible to complete a good social housing project in such a short period of time,” the Dutch architect said.
Peng echoed Atteveld’s sentiments.
“The way we do things is to set up a deadline before even having a comprehensive plan and decide things can only be done in a certain manner,” he said. “The Dutch way is to take time, to analyze it thoroughly and to integrate improvements to the project.”
Another idea that was unfamiliar to the Dutch consultants is the stigma of public housing, looked down upon as a source of poverty and crime.
“For the past few days we have learned that in Taiwan, social housing is like a contagious disease that needs to be contained in certain areas, but if you make good architecture, it can attract all kinds of people,” said Dick Schuiling, a former chairman of the federation.
Riny Sprengers, an area manager for New-West Housing Association Stadgenoot Hau, said that if Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) wants Taipei to win its World Design Capital 2016 bid, the city needs to pay attention not only to results, but to “the process to reach the results.”
“Building a new building is just a beginning. It requires an effort to further explore and maintain the space, to define a common goal so people can work toward it,” Sprengers said.