🙋 In May this year, on the National Development Council’s join.gov.tw website, netizens raised a proposal and advocated “raising vacancy tax.” This proposal passed by a vote in the Executive Yuan’s regular “Participation Officer Monthly Meeting” to become the topic of the 51st collaborative meeting. The collaborative meeting was held on July 19th. A public response is expected to be made on the website after being jointly confirmed by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Interior at the end of this month.

🤔 What can be shared in advance is the following: in the preparation process for the collaborative meeting, by interviewing stakeholders and analyzing statistical data, my office (Executive Yuan Public Digital Innovation Space, PDIS) found that to explore the feasibility of “vacancy tax”, there are at least three questions below that must be clarified first.

⚡ Firstly, there is no obvious direct correlation between the “low utilization (electricity usage) residence” ratio in each city and county and the housing prices. “Low utilization (electricity usage) residence” statistics are derived by comparing and filtering the taxation data and Taipower electricity usage data each year, as done by the Ministry of the Interior’s Construction Department. According to the latest statistics, in November and December 2017, there were nearly 865,000 “low utilization (electricity usage” residences” in the country, or 10.12% of houses in the country. In 2009, this ratio was 11.49%.

🔎 To match the same time period, PDIS obtained the “housing affordability index” statistics from the Ministry of the Interior for the fourth quarter of 2017. We found that for the quarter, the six cities or counties with the highest “housing price to income ratio” are Taipei City (14.99 times), New Taipei City (12.71 times), Taichung City (9.61 times), Changhua County (8.79 times), Hsinchu County (8.62 times), and Kaohsiung City (8.22 times). Over the same period, the “low utilization (electricity usage) residence” ratio for these six cities and counties are 6.73%, 7.65%, 9.66%, 11.78%, 11.13%, and 10.53%, respectively. This indicates that any correlation between “low utilization (electricity usage) residence” and housing prices is yet to be determined.

🏚 Secondly, there are many causes for “low utilization (electricity usage) residences.” It is difficult to generalize. From the point of view of regional statistics, it may be that the population is moving out, or it may be the accumulation of unsold surplus houses. Furthermore, in addition to being own by investors and not yet rented or sold, a house may also be under-utilized due to other factors such as its remote location, a complication in its right of ownership, or its owner’s unwillingness to manage. In short, the multi-dimensional nature behind the phenomenon of “low utilization (electricity usage) residence” should not be overlooked.

🚰 Thirdly, PDIS and the organizers chose to use the “low utilization (electricity usage) residence” statistics as the basis of this collaborative meeting. However, after the discussion on the same day, we also found that by incorporating water usage data and field survey, we can provide the local governments a more accurate view of the quantity, type, and distribution of “vacant houses” in their respective jurisdictions.

📂 Proposals at join.gov.tw website often involve social phenomena at multiple levels. Through this collaborative meeting, we hope to clarify the factual contexts to the best of our ability, so that future discussions can be more focused and traceable. We welcome the ongoing attention from everyone to the follow-up response.