Taiwan Vignettes II, the Rising High Cost of Housing in Taipei and Taiwan

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Saturday April 26, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Ma Ying-joke is not yet president but people are already starting to see problems behind the fa蓷de of his simplistic cure-all systems and promises. If you remember Ma was the one who was going to open up China for investment as well as invite the Chinese to invest in Taiwan, and everyone would become rich. Well last week our first group of well-heeled investors from China came over and interestingly enough a prime target they looked at for investment was not business opportunities but Taiwan's housing market, in particular, that of Taipei. With deep pockets, they began to sense that it would be fashionable as well as advantageous to start buying up real estate in Taipei. China is developing tycoons and while they will want alternate housing in the Americas and Europe, there is something appealing about having a place just off-shore where things are a little more free and easy and you can drop over for the weekend.

For Taiwanese, the light bulb suddenly lit up in their pre-election foggy minds. Protesters soon gathered as people realized that Taipei's already high housing costs will only go higher once investment is allowed in. As one put it, he already makes NT$60,000 a month and getting enough for a down payment is extremely difficult. (Recall at this point Ma said he was going to make it possible for Taiwanese to make an average of NT$30,000 a month.) This will almost make it impossible for the average Taiwanese couple or single person just starting out to buy a house or apartment. Besides this fact that the average person's chances for home ownership are slowly slipping away, there came the further repugnant realization that one may also have a Chinese landlord in Taiwan. All because Ma promised that we would all be rich. Rings a little hollow now doesn't it?

If you want to ask someone about how housing prices can be forced up by outsiders and who profits, just go to Vancouver and inquire about what happened to housing when the people from Hong Kong began to bring their dollars over. The average Canadian found himself in an uncompetitive position. Who profits in this boom? Take a guess. It is not your average-Joe citizen.

Cross-Strait investments and interactions are two-way streets; Ma's promises have a hook and a price tag that few examined when they were glowingly made. In the same vein, the opposition party cried about the right for professors to be able to go and teach at the universities in China; this was going to be boomsville. Then all of a sudden Taiwan's professors began to realize that if Taiwanese can teach at universities in China, reciprocity will be established. Further, there are a heck of a lot more Chinese professors who would willingly flood the already tight Taiwan university market than there are Taiwanese who want to go to China.