Thu, Apr 27, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Taipei’s public land sunset clause sparks rival protests

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Members of the Social Democratic Party yesterday protest outside a residence justice forum held at Regent Taipei, calling for an end to a regulation according to which people who trade in private land to be used in public projects are awarded 50 percent of preferential floor space in construction projects for free, but must pay for the remaining 50 percent.

Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times

Opponents and supporters of a sunset clause dating from former Taipei mayor Hau lung-bin’s (郝龍斌) administration which allows people to donate land earmarked for public infrastructure projects and receive floor space in new buildings in exchange, yesterday demonstrated outside Taipei’s Regent Hotel, where Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) was attending a forum on “residential justice.”

Under the clause, people who trade in private land to be used in public projects are awarded 50 percent of the floor space in construction projects for free, but must pay for the remaining 50 percent.

Taipei Department of Urban Development statistics show that the floor space landowners acquired from the Taipei City Government from 2008 to 2014 averaged 3.2 times the size of land they donated.

The provisional clause has a term of validity of three years and is set to expire on June 29, when people will be left with only the option to pay — instead of donating land in exchange — for the amount of floor space they want.

Ko expressed concerns over the quantity of private land the city is set to expropriate for building public infrastructure, saying that the cost of expropriation has been estimated at NT$2 trillion (US$66.33 billion), which is about 15 times the city’s annual budget.

However, a proposal tabled by Taipei City Councilor Yeh Lin-chuan (葉林傳) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to retain the clause has gained the majority backing of 51 out of the 61 Taipei city councilors.

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) staged a demonstration outside the hotel, calling on the city to abolish the clause as scheduled.

SDP spokesman Chen You-sin (陳又新) said brokers with insider information sometimes buy land from less-well-off people who have land designated for public infrastructure projects, at prices much lower than its market value and sell it to construction firms, raking in huge profits.

National Committee member Miao Po-ya (苗博雅) said the Taipei City Council in 2014 unanimously passed a resolution stipulating that people who want to acquire floor space after June 29 must pay for it in full.

The rule change would mean the city government would be able to collect more fees from its land exchanges with builders, which it can invest in other city projects, Miao said.

Saying that 40 of the councilors who signed Yeh’s proposal were active during Hau’s term, she asked them to publicly explain their U-turn or withdraw their backing of the proposal.

Abolishing the system would prevent some landowners from losing money in their deals with brokers and resolve the problem of construction firms hoarding land designated for public use, Housing Movement spokesman Peng Yang-kai (彭揚凱) said.

In a separate demonstration, a group of landowners decried the scheduled abolition of the system.

National Landowners Self-help Group secretary-general Lee Chi-yu (李奇昱) said that existing rules only allow Taipei residents whose land is on roads measuring 15m or wider to be compensated in the case of an expropriation.

However, the majority of private land is on lanes measuring 8m or less where infrastructure — such as cables and underground water and gas pipes — are concentrated, Lee said.

“For more than 50 years, these landowners have been denied compensation and now the city government is planning to close the window of opportunity for us to receive compensation,” he said.

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