One of my biggest gripes about New York City…ANY city…is the constant process of Gentrification.
It is the way of cities. A never-ending cycle. I understand this. I know that I am part of it. I do not like it.
I realize that there are positive sides to gentrification. As money comes into a neighborhood, so do the benefits of money. Crime is reduced, schools get better, streets cleaner, restaurantsshopsfarmsgalleries pop up.
But there’s ugly side. The most ugly side is the displacement of the people. The displacement of people + families who for years, lifetimes, have called those neighborhoods their homes.
Often this happens in a passive sort of way. “Oh, the rent is too high for you now? Sorry. Property taxes…blahblahblah…Can’t do anything about it. You’ll just have to go somewhere else.”
What is happening to a neighborhood right smack in the middle of Taipei called Huaguang (華光) is quite a different story.
Last Saturday night my new friend, Yi-xin, invited me to join her for a concert. She noted that the concert was for a neighborhood that is about to be wiped out by the government as part of brutal urban renewal plans. I was intrigued.
The concert location was just a 25 minute walk from my house. Walking down Aiguo East Road, I started to hear the music. I followed the sound of music down several narrow, dark alleys before I found where it was coming from. I then met Yi-xin, who had stepped away from the concert (held in an empty lot) just as I arrived. She + some of her coworkers led me on a tour + filled me in on what is going on there. The neighborhood shots you see here were taken the day after the concert.
Basically, the Huaguang community is on prime real estate. It is located directly across from the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial. It is quite run down + spans a few city blocks. All of the homes are small, one story units. They are clustered in an area that used to be the military training grounds + homes for the Japanese during Japan’s colonization of Taiwan. Most of the homes have already been evacuated.
Many of the people in Huaguang have spent their entire lives in those homes. Most are quite poor. Many do not have families elsewhere that can help them out. Some have already begun to live on the streets. There is no relocation effort.
Those who have not evacuated their homes already will be sued by the city for trespassing. Those who did not move out by a required date have to pay for their own homes to be demolished, or else pay the city to have it done.
When I asked if the demand for housing is that great in Taiwan, I was told that most of the apartments + offices that will be built will be bought by (Mainland) Chinese companies.
There is very little media coverage about this, + apparently many people in Taipei have not heard about what is going on here.
I do not know what can be done to help this community at this point besides coverage. Things have probably moved too far for there to be much backtracking in regards to the government deciding to leave the neighborhood be. However, the people of Huaguang deserve a lot more than what they have been dealt. For instance: not to have to pay for the demolition of their own homes which they are being forced to leave + not being sued by the government for staying in their homes when no assistance has been given for finding new, affordable homes.
Despite the festivity that is currently encompassing Taipei, I felt the need to post now about this time sensitive issue. I will post several more celebratory posts about Chinese New Year in the coming days.
I will continue to follow this story + share more information as I get it. Till then, let’s do what we can to spread the word.