PROTESTS:Civic groups accused the government and construction firms of ignoring the needs of the disabled who have very limited housing options
By Ted Yang / Staff Reporter
A disabled person holds up a sign, joining a protest with a group of non-homeowners outside the office of the National Property Administration in Taipei yesterday.
The National Property Administration (NPA) yesterday invited open tenders for the construction of social housing for students and the elderly based on the build-operate-transfer model, but drew criticism from civic groups, who said the government was ignoring the plight of the disabled.
The agency began collecting tenders for three plots of land located in prime areas in Taipei City, which will be leased out to build affordable houses, with royalties ranging from NT$837 million (US$27.2 million) to NT$29.44 million. The tenders are scheduled to be opened on Dec. 15.
Representatives of Raging Citizens Act Now (RCAN, 人民火大行動聯盟) accused the agency of currying favor with land developers and neglecting low-income students and senior citizens, as well as excluding the disabled from the social welfare project.
“This is fake social housing,” RCAN spokesperson Lai Hsiang-ling (賴香伶) shouted, saying the government had long ignored the construction of a “barrier-free environment” for disabled individuals, who have very limited housing options.
Lai said that the three parcels of land put up for bidding are all located in areas conveniently accessible to public transportation, which can be an ideal living environment for the disabled.
Hua Ching-chun (花敬群), an associate professor of finance at Hsuan Chuang University, agreed, saying by telephone that the government was just trying to profit together with construction companies in the name of “social housing.”
Accepting a petition letter from the protesters, National Property Administration Deputy Director-General Chuang Tsui-yun (莊翠雲) said social housing projects fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Interior, which was mulling more options to meet greater demand.
“The NPA will cooperate with the ministry and local governments to help promote the construction of social housing by releasing more state-owned land,” Chuang said.
Yesterday’s public invitation of tenders for the construction of social housing marked the first time that the Ministry of Finance has put up state-owned land for bidding as part of the nation’s public welfare programs.
Several civic group members also voiced concern that the monthly rent of NT$6,000 to NT$30,000 for social housing units was still too high for low-income students, although it is lower than the going rate.
“I pay about NT$4,000 a month now. If the government really wants to help those in need, the rent should be much lower,” Song Jia-lum (宋佳倫), a graduate student at Fu Jen Catholic University, told the Taipei Times.