The shortage of housing is a major challenge for cities around the world, and housing policies in Taiwan are attracting considerable attention from presidential candidates and residents.
However, the discussions have mainly focused on the issues of demand and supply, pricing and distributive justice. It would be more advantageous for the policymakers to provide not only simple shelters, but rather homes that are affordable, comfortable and sustainable, with low running costs and long-term benefits even for future generations.
In the UK, the mayor of London said he would deliver 45,000 affordable homes from this year to 2018, with a total investment of about ￡145 million (US$220 million) to achieve lifelong designs and sustainable standards according to the UK Code for Sustainable Homes as well as the Building Research Establishment sustainability accreditations.
The UK’s RE:NEW domestic retrofitting program, established in 2009 according to the UK Energy Company Obligation and Green Deal schemes, has also improved the efficiency of more than 103,000 homes, saving more than 24,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and providing significant savings on energy bills for households.
More recently, an affordable housing project Y:Cube (2015) adopted a modern means of construction to achieve top energy efficiency. All the houses in the Y:Cube project are designed by architects in accordance with the UK Government Planning Strategy Policy. This project aims to bring individual investors and local councils together to solve housing problems in London with efficient layouts, low construction and running costs by means of high-quality, innovative construction, reducing energy needs of occupiers and solar heating systems.
Switzerland also established a nationally recognized building standard, Minergie, in 1998. A quality label, Minergie-A, is supported by the Swiss government and national energy research centers to encourage all buildings to achieve a certain standard of comfort, retain their market value and promote energy and cost savings.
The Minergie-P enhances the concept of passive housing, helping to reduce energy consumption, as well as recycling and regeneration of energy.
A Zurich Cantonal Bank study said the market value of Minergie houses are 7 percent higher than other structures.
The policy achievements in the UK and Switzerland have proved that the idea of “energy savings equaling high costs” is an outdated concept. Energy efficiency in domestic households represents a brighter, sustainable and low-cost future, benefiting this and future generations.
A national housing policy is not just about real estate. As Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) are focusing on a competition over how many social housing units they can supply, they should reconsider their policy proposals with a new sustainable focus and an international mind-set.
With the support of the government, individual investors and experts, Taiwanese can achieve their dream homes more easily. Thus, the farsighted policy incentives and structural regulatory changes are in high demand.
Ng Ming Shan holds masters’ degrees in architecture from the University of Cambridge and ETH Zurich and is a registered architect in the UK and Switzerland. Yang Chung-han is a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance at the University of Cambridge and a member of the Taipei Bar Association.
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