Several civic groups yesterday lashed out at President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), calling claims that his administration had been working to reform laws governing land use and housing “lies.”
“Certainly, the government has pushed through revisions in laws concerning land expropriation and housing. However, the more important thing for us the people is to see for whom the government is pushing for reforms,” Liao Pen--chuan (廖本全), an associate professor at National Taipei University’s Department of Real Estate and Built Environment and a member of the Taiwan Rural Front, told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan.
“The government has made the changes for the developers and big corporations. The revised Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例) should be a protection for disadvantaged people. However, it is now a weapon against them,” Liao said.
“This government should step down for deceiving the public and breaking promises,” he said.
Ma, seeking re-election, has said on several occasions that his government has pushed through revisions to the Land Expropriation Act in the Legislative Yuan, and that the Housing Act (住宅法) was passed in the legislature because the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) holds an absolute majority.
In the revised law, the government promised to grant landowners compensation for expropriated land based on the market value of the land — instead of the published value, which is usually much lower. Ma lauded the move as a huge step forward.
However, Liao found some problems with the amended law.
“Yes, the government says that they would pay landowners the market price instead of the published price, but the market price is going to be assessed by land value assessment commissions affiliated with local governments, which are the same groups of people who decide what the published price of lands are,” Liao said.
Also, as opposed to other legislation that becomes effective as soon as the president signs it, the date that the amended Land Expropriation Act takes effect is to be decided by the Executive Yuan.
“So, basically, the government still has the final say about how much compensation that landowners can receive; and it’s up to them to decide when the law takes effect,” Liao said.
On the other hand, 84-year-old farmer Hsieh Chien-hsiang (謝見祥) from Hsinchu County’s Jhubei City (竹北) — who faces forced expropriation of his farmland — said the amended Land Expropriation Act focuses too much on compensation, and fails to pay attention to the rights of those who do not want to sell their land.
“Ma always said that the government would protect designated agricultural zones, but that was a lie,” Hsieh said. “I don’t want to give up my land, no matter how much they pay me. Countries all over the world are trying to boost their food self-sufficiency rate, but our government is still seizing farmland — how can we guarantee food -security for generations to come if we don’t protect farmland?”
Social Housing Promotion Alliance spokesman Lu Ping-yi (呂秉怡) said that although the Housing Act was finally passed, it gives too much power to private construction firms when it comes to dealing with social housing.
“Social housing should be a non-profitable business, so the government should take a leading role in social housing projects,” Lu said. “Besides, the government puts too much emphasis on the youth, while overlooking the needs of the economically disadvantaged.”