Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ko defends policy on public housing

‘CAN’T DO’ ATTITUDE:The independent candidate rejected Sean Lien’s criticism that the policy was not feasible, saying his rival lacks the determination to tackle the issue
By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Independent Taipei mayoral candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday said that his campaign platform on public housing, which aims to build 50,000 rent-only units in the city, is “workable” and that his main rival’s criticism shows “his unwillingness to tackle the housing issue.”

“Public housing is a difficult task, but a mayor has to have the determination to resolve it and has to be at least aggressive,” Ko said during a campaign stop at the Social Housing Advocacy Consortium, in response to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Sean Lien’s (連勝文) campaign office statement that Ko’s plan was not feasible.

“[Lien] often says this cannot be done and that cannot be done. I have to say it just shows his unwillingness to tackle the housing issue,” Ko added.

Ko and Lien are the primary contenders in the Taipei mayoral election on Nov. 29, with a pair of independents — former Democratic Progressive Party legislator Shen Fu-hsiung (沈富雄) and award-winning screenwriter Neil Peng (馮光遠) also running.

The former National Taiwan University Hospital physician said that there are at least 198 hectares of idle public property, according to information provided by the Taipei City Government.

Ko’s campaign office released a list of those public properties, but stopped short of detailing their lot number, saying that Lien’s office might use the information to encourage residents living in those areas to organize protests amid fear that public housing projects could bring down property prices.

Ko said he believes that his plan is achievable, giving young people who cannot afford to purchase an apartment in Taipei an opportunity to reside in the city by renting.

If 100 hectares of those properties were used for public housing projects, the city government should be able to build 50,000 units for rental on a budget of about NT$100 billion (US$3.33 billion) — a loan that the city government can pay back in 50 years, Ko said.

Young people and the financially challenged will be able to rent an apartment for NT$500 per ping (3.3m2) — or about NT$10,000 per month for a 20-ping apartment — Ko said, adding that the city government should also provide rental subsidies for economically disadvantaged households.

The social housing consortium recognized Ko’s policy in a press release issued yesterday afternoon, but also expressed its concern that most of the discussion was centered on the construction, while ignoring such issues as social welfare assistance and community building.

Separately, Shen released his six-point campaign platform yesterday and suggested a public debate with Ko and Lien on city affairs.

Shen’s platform includes a social housing program, combating the nation’s low birth rate, enforcing a test-free 12-year national education plan and making Taipei a gay-friendly city.