Urban renewal bill to profit developers: critics

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Mar 12, 2017 - Page 3

Academics at a public hearing slammed an urban renewal bill, saying it encourages unplanned development and favors property developers over the interests of the public.

The public hearing on Thursday was called by the legislature’s Internal Administration Committee to discuss a proposed bill for rewarding the accelerated reconstruction of dangerous or aging urban structures.

Proponents of the proposal are using reconstruction as a fig leaf to boost the profits of developers, Tamkang University professor of architecture Liu Hsin-jung (劉欣蓉) said, adding that preferential treatment of developers shows the drafters of the bill are “30 years behind the times” in their thinking.

The proposal’s emphasis on single-point urban renewal projects neglects overall urban planning and design, Liu said, adding that the government should not be pushing the bill when it has not addressed flaws in existing regulations, such as in the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例).

The Urban Renewal Act has led to uncoordinated and unplanned development in cities, which has not been addressed by the government, Liu said.

“The proposed legislation would reward homeowners for developing their properties on their own, leading to even more deformed and uncoordinated development. As a result, Taiwan will never be free of its bad reputation as a nation with ugly cities,” Liu said.

The proposal’s suggestion that all people with a legal claim to a structure must consent to any reconstruction does not promote public safety, said Ching Chia-ho (金家禾), dean of National Taipei University’s College of Public Affairs.

The bill favors those who have sole rights to a property or small-group ownership, but it disadvantages the underprivileged residents it purports to help, Ching said.

The proposed provisions for volume-based rewards and absence of qualifiers on the size of foundations would make it difficult to promote underground parking facilities in urban areas, he added.

Architecture Reform Association president Tseng Kuang-tsung (曾光宗) said rewarding individual property owners rather than furthering the public interest shows the bill’s skewed priorities.

The government should impose geographical limits on the bill’s applicability and further open the drafting process to architectural and urban planning expertise, Tseng said.

National Association of Real Estate Appraiser Unions honorary director-general Alpha Cho (卓輝華) lauded the government for trying to encourage urban renewal, but called on it to enlist more technical experts in determining what qualifies a structure as aging or dangerous.