Ko eyeing change to building plan

UNUSED UNITS::The mayor said he is rethinking his plans to build 20,000 public housing units because many apartments in the city are vacant for weeks at a time

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Sep 13, 2017 - Page 3

About 36,000 housing units in Taipei have not been used for more than 12 consecutive weeks, indicating that a policy of building more public housing should be modified, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said yesterday.

Ko made the remarks at the Housing Justice Forum held by the city government, where specialists from government agencies, academics and industry representatives discussed housing policies.

Ko said that his family lives in an apartment, but he does not know the names of the families that live above or below his apartment, which makes him feel like he is living in a concrete forest — in a prison cell of his own making.

How to create an ideal social connection in communities or how to make a “house” into a “home” are issues that the Taipei Department of Social Welfare should discuss, while the Taipei Department of Urban Development should determine what the reasonable rent for public housing should be, he said.

The Taipei Department of Finance is inventorying vacant government staff quarters to determine which should be demolished, while the Taipei Department of Land Administration is reviewing how to make housing policies that are transparent and reflect transaction safety and reasonable pricing.

Ko said he originally planned to build 20,000 public housing units in four years, but has since reconsidered the plan after discovering that Taipei has about 36,000 units that have been vacant for more than 12 straight weeks and about 50,000 that have been vacant for more than three weeks.

“It would be problematic to keep on building public housing units when there are so many vacant units in the city every year,” Ko said.

The policy should be modified to encourage people to release vacant units or allow the government to rent out such units.

Asked later about the city’s typhoon preparations as Typhoon Talim bears down on northern Taiwan, Ko said the city government always holds a review meeting after a typhoon has passed, so there is a standard operating procedure for typhoon preparation, which can ensure about 80 to 90 percent preparedness.

However, “whether or not to declare a typhoon day is one of the most painful decisions that local government heads have to make,” he said with a laugh.

“It is always a gamble,” the mayor said.

There should be a new standard for determining office and school closures on typhoon days, because the current standard only considers the wind force, but other factors such as rainfall and traffic conditions should be factored in as well, he said.