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Idea to lift ban on state-owned land results gets mixed reviews

Experts yesterday expressed mixed opinions about a possible government plan to lift a ban on the sale of state-owned land measuring 500 pings or under in Taipei and New Taipei. Each ping is 3.3 square meters.

The ban was put in place several years ago to clamp down on speculation. Yet Finance Minister Chang Sheng-ho on Wednesday said the government was considering lifting the ban, which he said has led to a shortage of land, which in turn led to a price increase.

Yesterday, Chang Chin-er, land administration professor with National Chengchi University, described the finance minister's remarks as ridiculous.

"State-owned land is for the interest of the public as a whole and cannot be sold at random," he said. "Lifting the ban would disappoint everyone and would cause the government to be the biggest pushing hand behind rampant speculation."

Hua Ching-chun, finance professor with Hsuan Chuang University, echoed Chang's remarks. "State land is not a means for the government to raise money," he said. "Lifting the ban would only underscore the government's lack of planning and vision."

Developers, on the other hand, applauded the move.

"The ban was intended to curb price hikes. Yet in hindsight, that rationale was fallacious," said Tsai Tsung-yi, vice president of the Farglory Group. "The ban led to a land shortage and caused prices to surge even further, as developers transferred the high cost of acquiring land to buyers."

Lai Cheng-yi, chairman of developer the Shining Group, offered a similar opinion.

"The out-of-control property value in Greater Taipei had to do with the market forces of supply and demand," he said. "Land was already hard to find, and the situation was made worse after the government stopped releasing state-owned land."

Wang Ming-cheng, chairman of real estate advertising firm Creator, said lifting the ban would revitalize Greater Taipei's housing market, which he said has become stagnant.

"Constructors have lots of money, yet they couldn't buy land," he said. "Lifting the ban would contribute to a normalization of the market."

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