The 2017 Asian Real Estate Society and Global Chinese Real Estate Congress Joint Annual Conference was ceremoniously launched on July 11 in Taichung. Mayor Lin Chia-lung and Dr. Robert J. Shiller, the winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, were invited to deliver key-note speeches respectively. Mayor Lin indicated in the speech that, by the end of this year, Taichung was expected to surpass Kaohsiung and become the second most populous city in Taiwan. The Taichung City Government, therefore, is planning to integrate the existing districts into ten major districts. All the metropolitan districts and mountain/coastal/outlying (Tun) districts of the original Taichung County will be distinctively positioned. The convenient transportation network, furthermore, will enable balanced development of these districts as a whole. The Railway Construction Projects under the Forward-Looking Infrastructure Plan, for example, have been fully incorporated into the plan. It is hoped that the central government will continue supporting the urban development plans and infrastructure development in Taichung, so as to optimize the utilization and value of the land.
Guests to the opening ceremony included Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong, Mayor of Taichung City Lin Chia-lung, Director General of the Construction and Planning Agency Hsu Wun-Long, GCREG Chairperson Chen Shu-mei, Professor Chen Ming-chi, as well as real estate researchers and experts from different countries in Asia, America, Europe and Australia, etc. Mayor Lin was invited to deliver a key-note speech on “Economic Development Strategies for Taichung City under the Waves of Globalization” and, for the same event, Dr. Shiller also lectured on “Understanding Asset Price Inflation for the Residential, Equity and Bond Markets”. In addition to the main forum, the annual conference also hosts eight sub-forums. It is hoped that the in-depth discussion and exchange will provide different prospective for the establishment of real estate policies in Taiwan and facilitate relevant industrial development.
In his speech of “Economic Development Strategies for Taichung City under the Waves of Globalization”, Mayor Lin indicated that the land of Taichung City had increased by 10 times after the combination of the Taichung Provincial City and Taichung County. The population of the city has now reached 2.779 million. Taichung will soon become the second largest city in Taiwan. Increased land, however, is accompanied by increased political challenges. The widening gap between housing price and appraisal value will bring increased grievance from people, given the fact that houses are increasingly unaffordable to the youth, either in terms of rental or in terms of purchasing price.
The Mayor further explained that Taichung is advantaged by its geographical location, pleasant climate, culture assets and diversified industries. From an international perspective, the City has been widely considered a most livable place and ideal tourist destination. Twenty years ago, Taichung faced the adverse impacts of the 921 earthquake and the weakening of the provincial government, etc. Mayor Lin, therefore, has participated in the “Three Third” plan for Taichung in 2000. According to the plan, Taichung will, following Taipei and Kaohsiung, possess the third science park and the third international airport in Taiwan. Also, Taichung is expected to become the third special municipality in the country, which will take over the role of the provincial government and drive the development of central Taiwan.
In recent years, Taichung has been facing various crisis including the hollowing-out of urban areas and the marginalization of the former Taichung County areas. There were 32 urban plan areas in Taichung. The plans, however, have not been properly integrated. The areas surrounding the railway station, therefore, looked dark and solitary in the night. In the former Taichung County areas, however, plants in farms were thriving. This was very ironic for a special municipality.
To cope with this problem, the Taichung City Government has combined the thirty two urban plans into ten. Based on the strategy of “re-balancing”, the government endeavors to narrow down the price gap for real estates and to integrate the separate urban plans. Backboned by the “Great Taichung 123” policy, the urban plan divides the city into urban districts and mountain/coastal/outlying (Tun) areas. The Taichung City Government will also introduce the TOD (Transportation-Oriented Development) strategy to achieve rural-urban balance and ensure multi-centered development of the City. The mayor also appealed for support from the Ministry of the Interior.
Mayor Lin further stressed that transportation construction plays a key role in facilitating the balanced development of the districts in Taichung and ensuring reasonable housing prices. In other words, housing problems may be resolved through transportation planning. Convenient transportation will encourage the citizens to move to the suburbs and sub-city centers. Wu-feng, for example, is a place known for its good environment. It is within a 30-minute drive from the city center.
Taichung, however, is disadvantaged for lacking of attractive employment and venture opportunities. The salary standard is also extremely low. The government has spent tremendous time and efforts to solicit investment and business opportunities, believing that economic development is the only solution to create employment and venture opportunities for the city and lead to population growth. In addition, the Taichung City Government has been aggressively assisting the unregistered factories to build up business operations in the science park. Focusing on those high value-adding industries such as precision machinery and aerospace industries, Mayor Lin even personally lead the teams to solicit business in France and Japan, aiming to help the local industries to upgrade and globalize.
Mayor Lin expressed that, to retain the young talents, the City Government needs to help relieve their financial burdens, providing good residences and attract international tourists and investors. It is also important to strengthen the infrastructure construction through regional collaborative governance and balanced urban-rural development, thereby improving the quality of residences, optimizing the utilization of land and preventing the burst of housing market.
The Mayor added that, while the foreign and public investments in Taiwan have been declining, Taichung managed to achieve a “home run” in its forward-looking infrastructures. This is because that the Taichung City Government has been working on tasks which should have been completed in the past. He believed that Dr. Shiller would also support necessary infrastructure investment. The Mayor held the view that the government should invest in public construction and plow the hot money for economic development. He considered this the only way to add value to the lands, making them not just commodities.