Located on the outskirts of Zhúshān 竹山, Kēzikēng New Community 柯子坑新社區 is one of several public housing projects constructed in the aftermath of the 921 Earthquake that devastated central Taiwan in 1999. Despite providing much-needed relief for those who lost their homes in the disaster there were few buyers—and today the complex remains mostly empty and disused. Built with government funds, this poorly-conceived housing project has become yet another example of what Taiwanese call mosquito halls, a term popularized by artist Yao Jui-chung 姚瑞中 and a team of student researchers known as Lost Society Document. Since 2010 they have published six volumes of Mirage, a series of works identifying more than 800 disused public properties all around the country. Some of their work was translated into English—which is how I found out about this particular locale, which I briefly visited in the summer of 2017.
From a distance Kezikeng New Community looks like a decent place to live, though the location is somewhat remote from the nearest town and there are few amenities in the immediate area. There’s a good chance it was built here simply because the government already owned the land, which is adjacent to the former Zhushan Sugar Factory 竹山糖廠 (see here for more info). Decades ago this site was occupied by what I would assume (from aerial photographs) were warehouses—and the sugar railway network ran along the main road just outside the front gates of this community.
Apart from the obscure location it also sounds as if these townhouses, despite being billed as “affordable housing”, were too expensive. I’m no expert on the Taiwanese real estate market but 2 million NT and up does seem like a lot for a townhouse in the middle of nowhere. Repeated attempts by the state to auction idle units do not appear to have been met with an enthusiastic response—but the government is still sinking money into the project, renovating some of the more dilapidated units as recently as 2016.
Ultimately what we have here is yet another example of Taiwan’s construction-industrial state in action, spending taxpayers’ money building stuff nobody really needs—not at this price point, anyway. Thanks to the work of Lost Society Document these projects now face increasing scrutiny by the media and the public but there’s still much more to be done to address mismanagement of public funds in Taiwan.