The Council of Agriculture (COA) has proposed draft amendments to the Regulations Governing the Building of Agricultural Houses on Agricultural Land (農業用地興建農舍辦法) aimed at relaxing farmhouse ownership regulations by allowing the acquisition of foreclosed farmhouses by non-farmers and the gifting of farmhouses to relatives within two degrees of consanguinity of the owner.
To curb farmland speculation and building of houses for non-agricultural use, which has increased since the lifting of the farmland-for-farmers-only restriction in the Agricultural Development Act (農業發展條例) promulgated in 2010, the council in May proposed amendments to regulations that prohibit non-farmers from purchasing or selling farmland.
The first draft of amendments was announced last month, stipulating that only farmers and people who engage in bona fide agricultural activities are entitled to construct and buy farmhouses, while permitting the acquisition of farmhouses by non-farmers only via inheritance.
The council submitted the second draft of amendments to the Ministry of the Interior on Friday last week, which would allow non-farmers to purchase foreclosed farmhouses, while permitting farmhouse owners to bestow properties on relatives who are within two degrees of consanguinity of the owner.
The council said that it made the latest amendments after it collected more than 30,000 responses to the issue last month, with the draft amendments to be announced by the ministry and come into effect in two weeks at the earliest.
The council said that allowing non-farmers to bid for foreclosed farmhouses is likely to boost bidding and prevent failed bids, which it said is beneficial to indebted farmers who cannot afford to repay mortgages, while it still prohibits farmhouse owners from purchasing foreclosed farmhouses.
Taiwan Rural Front secretary-general Frida Tsai (蔡培慧) said that permitting non-farmers to procure farmhouses via foreclosure could open a loophole for property speculation.
The council should maintain the principle of “agricultural land solely for agricultural use” by helping handle foreclosed properties with the council’s farmland bank before selling them to other farmers, Tsai said.
In related news, the Miaoli County Government is to start demolishing buildings registered as farmhouses, but not used for agricultural purposes, next month.
The move was announced after members of the Control Yuan last month found that the practice of misappropriating farmhouses for non-agricultural use has been rampant in the county, as local developers promote the sale of farmland by offering “free farmhouses.”
To circumvent the provisions in the Agricultural Development Act that stipulate non-farmers in possession of farmland cannot build farmhouses during the first two years of possession, developers and real-estate brokers often build “farmhouses” using the proprietor’s capacity as a farmer before selling the farmland along with such properties to non-farmers, the county government said.
Many such buildings have been reported and buildings found to have been used for non-agricultural use would be demolished, it added.
The Miaoli County Government quoted a Control Yuan report as saying that: “The practice of developers bundling farmland and farmhouses for sale skews normal market behavior, which deviates from the principle of agricultural land solely for agricultural use and shifts responsibility to consumers. The [Miaoli] county government is ordered to clamp down on such practices.”
The county government said those who have bought such buildings can apply for administrative relief.
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