EDITO: A mistreated Youth Innovation tenant?

From setting up a neighborhood carpentry shop to organizing community sports meetings, it seems that people living in public housing under the Taipei City Government’s Youth Innovation Project need a lot of time.

However, earlier this month the New Power Party (NPP) accused the city of “suggesting” that one of the tenants sign up for a number of government-sponsored events to keep their lease. The tenant would even have been invited to participate in the recording of a television program which turned out to be a tourist advertisement for the city.

Many of these events took place on weekdays, which affected the tenant’s work and quality of life, the NPP said.

This is information from a single resident and, if true, is a gross abuse of the already maligned social housing system that needs to be investigated. No other allegations have been made so far and no other tenants have spoken.

Taipei’s urban development department immediately denied the report.

“Social innovation households invite residents and neighbors to events according to their proposals, and promoting the city government is not part of their duties. Whether or not they appear at city events does not affect their right to live there,” the department said.

“At the same time, these households have been willing and proactive in supporting city-related events,” he added.

Of course, the city can’t cancel their leases if they don’t cooperate, but maybe someone in the department was a little overzealous in “encouraging” participation?

It’s hard to say without more people speaking up.

There are currently 316 social innovation households in 11 social housing projects, according to the department. Instead of drawing lots for subsidized housing, they must submit a proposal on how they would promote community development and encourage neighborly relations, as well as pass an interview. Those accepted can stay for a maximum of six years, with each contract lasting three years.

It’s one of those ideas that sounds great on paper, but is difficult to implement and evaluate, especially if the candidates have full-time jobs and need to support their families. The program was criticized early on and was nearly canceled, as it was reported that tenant initiatives were reaching less than 15% of residents.

However, it takes time to build a sense of community from scratch when most people in Taipei are used to being alone and don’t even know who lives next door.

There have been positive results – social innovation households in Xinglong Public Housing’s D2 block have successfully promoted cooperation to solve problems in the complex, and their Facebook page shows eight events scheduled for this month. These include extracurricular activities for teenagers, as well as baking and in-line skating lessons. A neighborhood sports meeting last November attracted more than 300 participants.

There is a lot of work involved in these initiatives – residents are also responsible for attracting other residents to their events, they hold regular meetings, survey residents and submit an annual report to the city government.

The program will experience growing pains and will certainly need to be continually evaluated and adjusted in the years to come, but any suggestion that it has been abused is unacceptable.

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