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May 28, 2017

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Old solutions won't solve the crisis in urban housing prices

After being in office for over 100 days, Minister of the Interior Chen Wei-zen (陳威仁) recently shared his ideas on how to improve the nation's unreasonably high-priced housing market in urban areas. He also presented ideas on how to raise funds for national parks.

An average of 60,000 people, especially young adults, move from rural areas to urban districts every year, according to the Ministry of the Interior's statistics, Chen said, noting that such a migration trend more or less causes the rising prices of housing in the big cities.

The MOI minister told a press conference that he plans to promote and develop 10 townships and 10 villages that are 20 kilometers away from urban areas in the next few years, hoping that these selected towns and villages will drive the development of nearby rural districts.

Chen went on to say that, as a matter of fact, a total of over 80 development projects for towns and villages will be proposed by ministries every year, noting that the projects are scattering resources and cannot really efficiently balance the differences between well-developed cities and rural areas. His plan to promote the 20 selected rural areas will not only integrate each ministry's resources, Chen said his idea will also encourage young adults to stay in their hometowns and ameliorate the situation on the unreasonably expensive housing markets.

The MOI minister during the same press briefing said there are eight national parks and one national natural park in Taiwan; however, these national parks are facing financial issues. Chen said his ministry currently is drafting a fund-raising plan for Kinmen National Park. He explained that as there are many traditional and historic houses left deserted in the national park, the MOI plans to call for tenders of people who wish to run hostels in Kinmen. The national park will receive a part of the hostels' income and can utilize the funds to operate the park services, Chen said.

The minister's visions sound promising. If they actually work, they might solve the nation's long-stalled housing issues and funding for the national parks. But let's talk in real terms. In reality, the most unreasonably expensive houses are in Northern Taiwan, especially in the Greater Taipei area. Big cities like Kaohsiung and Taichung are also facing the same challenge. Also, numerous reports about the realty industry in Taipei have highlighted the role of corporations and rich individuals that buy property as an investment opportunity. These investments then go uninhabited and unused until they can be unloaded at a higher price.

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