Part 1. A poor district with history on a rich land;
What is Huaguang Community (華光市區)?
Back to the 50’s. The public servants coming from China started to live in Huaguang on land given to them by the ministry of Justice-some illegal houses were built along the years, too. The site is a former military prison built by the Japanese, few wanted to live there because it was believed to be haunted, and only people who couldn’t afford a better environment moved in. Time passed. Many of the originally settled public servants died, but their children kept living there.
As you would tell, this wasn’t a rich district. Houses were made of concrete and wood. There was no high-rise, but a few 3-4 story buildings. A (great) restaurant opened: simple hand made noodles, small prices and delicious raviolis. I ate there quite a few times!
However, one day, few years ago, the government decided to put Huaguang on the list of interesting prospects for Taipei because its location is worth a lot of $$ and thus should be developed. They decided to build there a financial center-then later changed their mind and preferred to build an entertainment district-Japanese style.
Well, at this point, I would say: «why not?» I understand the idea and agree that Taiwan needs good infrastructures, even if a financial center without any kind of bigger picture for the development of the local financial sector seems a bit weird, knowing Taiwan’s old-fashion banking system. The ministry owns the land, so it can use it as it wants, legally.
The government claims back «its» land
Some houses were legally built by the ministry and lent to their servants directly for an indirect time, if those were still alive they were given some compensations, but if they died and their families were still living there, they were not granted generous conditions. For those who had illegally settled there, the government had no tolerance and looked to expell them by all means. They asked them to destroy their homes by themselves, or otherwise pay penalties for not doing it. They froze the liabilities of those who didn’t comply and took 1/3 of their wages directly on their bank accounts.
For at least some of the residents, those with a legal situation or all of them-I am not sure-, a temporary housing was offered for 2 years, at a rent price of 12.000NT/month, or about 400 USD.
So you would think that things are pretty straightforward, right? The ministry claims its own land for a development program, that’s almost banal., and perfectly legal. However, I can’t help but thinking that the story of Huaguang is a missed opportunity, and I will expose my reasons.