by Matthew Strong
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je said Friday for the first time that he would eventually consider the sale of public housing if the central government failed to cooperate with his policies.
The promise of affordable homes for younger people was seen as one of the main reasons why independent candidate Ko won last November’s mayoral election by a landslide.
Responding to questions from Taipei City councilors, Ko said that if the central government refused to provide the necessary funds and land, he would consider the likelihood of selling public housing to private citizens.
The mayor’s statement was immediately described as a major change in his stance, with opposition Kuomintang councilors attacking him for going back on his word. Critics also alleged that since his advisers were now cooperating with Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen, his supposed mistakes might damage housing policies on a national level.
In his report to the city council, Ko emphasized that public housing did not equal housing for the poor. At present, only older people could afford to buy a home in the capital, while younger people moved out, he reportedly said. It was important that people from all walks of life and from different income brackets could live together in public housing in order to prevent the buildings from turning into isolated areas, according to the mayor.
Ko also acknowledged that his administration had made strategic mistakes which reserved too expensive apartments for citizens who lacked sufficient means to buy them because of income restrictions the city had established.
The mayor said he wanted to continue and encourage urban renovation, but also acknowledged that he did not want to persecute the real estate and construction sectors. If they collapsed, it would have serious repercussions on the country’s overall economy, he reportedly said.
Ko’s tenure as mayor, which began last December, has been marked by high-profile conflicts with several power developers, mostly focused on major projects such as the Taipei Dome.