There are several different kinds of illegal structures. They can be divided into structures that violated legal procedure during construction and those that violate building requirements.
The first category includes structures for which the location, height, structure, floor area ratio and building coverage ratio meet local urban planning and building regulations, but for which construction was carried out without first obtaining a construction license, even if the builder had the right to use the land. This can be corrected at a later date, making the construction legal.
The second category includes structures for which a building license has not been applied for in accordance with the Building Act (建築法), the Regulations for the Management of Buildings in Areas Not Covered by Urban Planning (實施都市計畫以外地區建築物管理辦法) or other regulations.
In practice, there are also other categories: “Old illegal structures” refer to those that existed prior to Feb. 10, 1958, in what was then called Taiwan Province; those built before 1963 in Taipei; and those built before Dec. 21, 1968, in Kaohsiung. When public construction projects are handled, these dates are used to determine whether a demolition fee or subsidy can be issued.
Taipei is also categorizing illegal structures built between 1964 and Aug. 1, 1977, as “existing illegal structures.” If they are not a threat to public safety, traffic, health, the urban landscape or urban planning, photographs are taken of them and they are entered into a registry for management and control, but are temporarily exempt from reporting and demolition.
Demolishing or relocating this kind of illegal structure in a public construction project also allows for a demolition or relocation fee or subsidy, but the amount is lower than for “old illegal structures.”
Structures completed prior to Jan. 10, 1992, in Taiwan Province also meet the Taiwan Province Standards for Determining the Demolition of Illegal Structures (臺灣省違章建築拆除認定基準). They were built without applying for a building license and their demolition can also be delayed.
Regulations for handling illegal structures at the local level also differ.
In Tainan, for example, demolition priority is given to illegal structures built prior to Dec. 24, 2010, for which “construction exceeding more than three floors has been added to a legally defined open space facing a road” or “construction on a rooftop has added more than three floors to a building” or for “a structure occupying a legally defined arcade so that there is less than 1.5m of free space from side to side and police have issued a fine without the issue being addressed.”
There have been media reports saying that both the Taipei and New Taipei City governments plan to tear down all illegal structures.
If these structures are demolished without considering their negative effects on public safety, traffic, health, the urban landscape or urban planning, there is a risk that priorities will be confused.
Is this really the right way to go about things?
Furthermore, is the government capable of tearing down all these illegal structures?
If buildings that are used for rental apartments are demolished, what would happen to the tenants? Would their rents not increase even more? Is there sufficient social housing to accommodate disadvantaged people?
Lee Ji-sheng is an assistant researcher in the Legislative Yuan’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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