Thu, Oct 20, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Rights advocates call for Housing Act amendment

SETTLEMENT:While the act contains a provision on residency rights, implementation has been hampered by the lack of a clear definition, a housing specialist said

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

The Housing Act (住宅法) should be amended to clarify the meaning of residency rights, establish an appeals system for their violation and ban discrimination, human rights advocates said yesterday, as the Ministry of the Interior presses for revisions to facilitate construction of public housing.

Executive agencies and courts have rarely invoked the residency rights guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, since the two covenants were ratified by the Legislative Yuan in 2009, Taiwan Alliance Against Forced Evictions executive council member Huang Hui-yu (黃慧瑜) said.

“Even though the twin covenants have held the force of domestic law for years, all sorts of land development cases have faced controversy over forced relocations, a situation which has not changed since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office,” she said.

“It is important that the twin covenant guarantees be inserted into the Housing Act to clearly define residency rights as being different from property rights,” said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Frida Tsai (蔡培慧), one of the amendments’ sponsors along with DPP legislators Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) and Kolas Yotaka.

Lin Yen-tung (林彥彤), a housing specialist for the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, said that while the act already contains a provision guaranteeing residency rights, implementation has been hampered by the lack of a clear definition.

“Right now the government only talks about resettlement, but not about how existing residency rights should be protected and whether there is a just reason behind demands that people leave,” he said, calling for the act’s residency rights to be defined as corresponding to the definition in the twin covenants and related documents.

“There are all sorts of development plans which can result in forced relocations, but the process of assessment does not include residency rights, such as whether there are historical reasons behind a settlement,” he said.

Anti-discrimination provisions are necessary to guarantee poorer citizens access to private rental housing, Homeless of Taiwan executive council member Lee Wan-chen (李宛真) said.

“For poor people close to the bottom of society, finding rental housing is a series of hurdles — even if you already have money to pay rent or the government will pay for you, you still run into multiple levels of discrimination,” she said.

She added that in the experience of her group — which helps homeless people reintegrate into society — many landlords refuse to consider older renters and often arbitrarily increase rents to drive away poorer applicants.

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