Taiwan presidential candidates address controversies over properties; family home, condo & parking lot

Each of them has a controversy to address to the public.

Sulaiman Daud | Brenda Khoo | December 30, 2023, 12:24 PM



With less than three weeks to go before the election in Jan. 2024, all three Taiwanese presidential candidates had to address controversy and allegations over properties linked to them.

Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate William Lai addressed allegations about his family home, while Kuomintang's (KMT) Hou You-ih and Taiwan People's Party (TPP) Ko Wen-je faced allegations about a family condominium and a parking lot respectively.

DPP's William Lai and family home

Lai responded to allegations that his family home in the Wanli district of New Taipei City was illegally constructed.

Lai's father and grandfather were coal miners and the family home was initially a wooden shack, before it was turned into a brick house, according to Taipei Times.

However, Lai's opponents in the KMT and TPP accused his family of "illegally expanding" the property and said the building should have been torn down by the local government.

In Sep. 2023, the local government said that the house could only be considered a legal building if the owner has evidence that the structure predates the year of 1981, according to Focus Taiwan.

In 1981, urban planning was implemented in northern Taiwan, where Lai's family home is located, Taipei Times reported.

Lai's opponent, KMT's Hou Yu-ih, happens to be the incumbent New Taipei City mayor. Hou is currently on leave to run as the party's presidential candidate.

Lai said house was built decades ago, not a new building

On Dec. 20, during a televised policy presentation, Lai said that his family house is one of "hundreds" of miner's houses that were renovated in the area. Like these houses, his was built decades ago.

Focus Taiwan reported Lai saying that as mining companies closed down in New Taipei City, some houses were sold off and renovated in bigger structures for safety reasons.

Lai said these housing units predate the Regional Plan Act which prohibits unauthorised expansion. He claimed that all work on the structure was done before 1974, when the Act was passed, Focus Taiwan reported.

He also accused the New Taipei government of not setting out zoning guidelines following the termination of mining rights in the area, leaving families without a proper guide to renovation.

On Dec. 21, Lai told reporters that he planned to place his family home in a public trust, and turn it into a "memorial museum" commemorating the lives of miners in the area, Taipei Times reported.

Back and forth

On Dec. 25, the land administration department of New Taipei City casted doubts on Lai's claims as they issued a statement to say that Lai's house is "not similar to surrounding buildings". They also produced aerial images to show that the surrounding buildings belong to the 1970s while Lai's house appeared to be built in 1992, according to Central News Agency (CNA).

Later that evening, Kuo Ya-hui, Lai's campaign spokesperson, refuted the department's claim by producing the Lai family's original household register, which supposedly demonstrates that the house has existed since 1947.

Kuo also said that Lai was born and raised in that unit, and Lai's mother passed in that house too.

According to Kuo, the house was not a recent rebuilt but was renovated in 2003 due to water leakage issue — a problem that other units faced too.

Kuo also emphasised that Lai's house does not have a "mansion-like" layout or size, CNA also reported.

TPP's Ko Wen-je and parking lot

While Lai's TPP opponent, Ko Wen-je, took the chance to slam Lai by saying that the way the latter has handled his house issue suggests he would be a "dictator", Ko has his own controversy over property as well.

Ko's controversy is in relation to a plot of land in Hsinchu City of over 2,309m sq that Ko and five others bought in 2008. It was paved over and turned into a parking lot that was leased to a tour bus company, Taipei Times reported.

The plot of land however located within a zone designated for farming and grazing.

This was confirmed after an inspection was done at the plot by officials from Hsinchu City on Dec. 19. They would also investigate if proper permission was sought to pave over the land.

Hsinchu City is administered by the TPP, Ko's own party. However, Hsinchu City mayor, Ann Kao Hung-an had her TPP membership temporarily suspended in Sep. 2023 over corruption allegations.

DPP politicians criticised Ko for going against his promise to "protect Taiwan's farmland".

Meanwhile, Ko said that the parking lot would be restored to farmland, and he would donate the collected rental fees and retroactively pay its assessed income tax, Taipei Times reported.

KMT's Hou You-ih and condo rented to university students

KMT's Hou You-ih was not left out of the headlines.

Hou's family owns the Kaisuan Condominium, located in Yangmingshan, Taipei, and used as off-campus housing for students of Chinese Culture University.

During his policy presentation, Lai called on Hou to donate the condo, to which Hou said that he had no need to do so, as the building "conforms to all legal requirements" and all income and property taxes were paid.

However, Taipei Times reported that Hung Sung-han, a DPP legislator, accused Hou of "taking advantage of students".

Hung alleged that the condo's rent had been hiked "five times", from NT$18,200 (S$783) per semester to NT$16,000 (S$688) per month.

He estimated that Hou's family stands to make NT$20 million (S$861,000) in rent revenue each year from the condo.

Hung referred to Hou's campaign promise to improve the housing situation in Taiwan and accused him of being a hypocrite after pledging to support programmes for young Taiwanese.

Promise to turn condo into social housing

On Dec. 27, Hou's campaign responded and produced a letter written by Hou's wife, Ren Mei-ling.

Ren promised to turn the condo, which she had inherited from her father, into a youth hostel or social housing once the current management agreement ends in 2026, Taipei Times reported.

She also said that the property has been managed by a real estate service company since 2019, and claimed that her family had no part in the decision to hike the rent.

While they cannot change the rent under the terms of the management contract, Ren said they would offer a subsidy of NT$6,000 (S$256) a month for single rooms, and NT$7,000 (S$300) for double rooms.

Top image from Ko, Lai and Hou's Facebook pages.