Taipei City’s urban renewal advisory panel concluded its review of urban renewal regulations and mechanisms yesterday amid controversy surrounding an urban renewal project, proposing to set up a negotiation mechanism between construction firms and landowners, and to make the judicial system the authority when handling demolitions.
The panel, which includes six academics and experts, was formed on April 3 by the Taipei City Government to review urban renewal regulations amid controversy over the Wenlin Yuan urban renewal project in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林), where the city government demolished two houses owned by a family surnamed Wang (王), despite their refusal to take part in the project.
The panel held five meetings in the past three weeks to review the content of the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例).
The head of the panel, Chang Chin-oh (張金鶚), a professor of land economics at National Chengchi University, said a negotiation mechanism with non-profit organizations serving as mediators between landowners and construction firms would help avoid disputes like the one seen in the Wenlin Yuan project.
“The negotiation mechanism and strengthening landowners’ participation in the urban renewal process will protect the rights of residents and prevent private construction firms from making under-the-table deals,” he said yesterday at the conclusion of the meetings at Taipei City Hall.
The panel said the Ministry of the Interior should raise the threshold for urban renewal projects to better protect the rights of landowners. Under the regulations, construction firms or project initiators can proceed with the approval of 75 percent of the landowners affected.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said the city government would discuss the panel’s conclusions with legislators and seek their support to amend the act.
“Urban renewal is a path we must take to make Taipei a city with a better and safer living environment. The Wenlin Yuan project sparked concerns about issues related to urban renewal and highlighted the limitations of current regulations. The city government will work hard to strike a balance between promoting urban renewal and protecting the interests of residents,” Hau said.
Both members of the Wang family and landowners who took part in the project gathered at Taipei City Hall to express their concerns about the conclusions and follow-up measures.
Wang Yao-te (王耀德), a member of the Wang family, urged the city government to help the family negotiate with the construction firm to rebuild the family’s houses on their original sites.
A group of landowners who took part in the project urged the city government to facilitate construction of the new building, which has been stalled for about three years because of the resistance of the Wang family.
“We don’t want a confrontation with the Wang family. We just want to move in to our new apartments as soon as possible,” they said.