The Tourism Bureau yesterday said it was considering easing regulations to allow owners of homes in historic districts to convert them into bed-and-breakfast facilities.
The Regulations for the Management of Home Stay Facilities (民宿管理辦法) currently limit the establishment of home-stay facilities to certain areas, including designated scenic spots, tourist sites, national parks, Aboriginal reservations, remote areas, offshore islands, recreational farms or non-urban land.
However, there have been calls to add historic districts in urban areas to the list, in light of the trend of young people quitting their jobs in the city and returning to their hometowns to renovate and run bed-and-breakfast facilities in historic districts, such as Anping (安平) in Tainan and Lugang (鹿港) in Changhua County.
While some of these young entrepreneurs use houses they inherited from their parents or grandparents, others rent them from the owners and convert them into small lodgings.
Because current regulations do not allow home-stay facilities to be built on properties subject to urban planning regulations, many of these bed-and-breakfasts in historic districts are illegal.
A woman surnamed Lin (林) said her family does not want to sell their old house in Tainan, which they inherited from her grandparents. Lin said she wanted to keep her childhood memories alive by turning it into a bed-and-breakfast, but wanted to make sure that it is legal so that her guests can feel safe staying at her house.
Another advocate for change is a man surnamed Hsu (徐), one of the activists fighting to maintain old houses in Lugang (鹿港) — the second-largest city in Taiwan in the 18th and 19th centuries.
One of the houses he helped rescue was to be torn down to make way for a restaurant. Hsu managed to repair the decrepit more than a century-old house, while keeping most of the interior design intact.
The house became a lodging facility for backpackers because it is the only way to keep old houses alive, Hsu said.
However, just when he thought he had saved an old house from being destroyed, Hsu received a NT$180,000 fine for breaking the law on home-stay facilities.
In response to the calls, the bureau said that the government encourages young people to start their own businesses, but that does not mean people can build bed-and-breakfasts wherever they want.
The matter needs to be considered from the perspective of overall planning for the area, it said.
However, it is considering allowing historical buildings or houses in city-designated historical sites to be converted into bed-and-breakfasts, and is evaluating raising the limits on the number of rooms available for service in a home-stay facility.
The bureau added that it has held many meetings on raising the cap on number of rooms, but has not reached a consensus on the issue.
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