Fire in Dangerous Old Building Highlights the “Double Elderly Crisis” of Elderly People Living in Old Houses
High-rise fire in Kaohsiung City highlights the “double elderly crisis” faced by elderly residents living in old houses. Due to the high rental prices in urban areas, the vast majority of landlords are unwilling to rent their properties to elderly tenants, leaving many seniors facing the challenge of “homelessness in old age.” However, places like “29th Street in Sanchong, New Taipei City” offer affordable rent and are willing to accept vulnerable tenants, making it a “lost paradise” for elderly people who live alone.
The living conditions in “29th Street” are far from ideal, with piled up lunch boxes, trash, and dust-covered electric fans. Located at the intersection of Zhengyi North and South Road in Sanchong District, the building is over 40 years old, and the environment is dark and humid, with mice frequently seen scurrying around.
Low-income elderly tenant Zhang Mian stated that “the rent is just right for low-income households who receive NT$7,900 (approx. USD $283) in monthly subsidy. Here, there are a lot of mosquitoes and mice, but where else can we go?” However, with monthly rent ranging from NT$5,000 to NT$7,000 (approx. USD $179 to $251) for a room that is only 1.8 square meters in size, elderly people living alone or with disabilities who cannot afford high rent and landlords who are unwilling to rent to them, this place is their only refuge.
Another elderly tenant, Yang Zhang Ah Han, admitted that “the safety environment is not good, it’s scattered all over the place.” When asked if he had considered moving out, he replied, “No, the rent outside is too expensive, and I can’t afford it, starting from NT$6,000 to NT$7,000 (approx. USD $215 to $251).”
The recent fire at the Chengzhongcheng community in Kaohsiung City has once again highlighted the “double elderly crisis” faced by elderly residents living in old houses across Taiwan. The Tsuei Mama Foundation has conducted a survey, which revealed that up to 90% of landlords are unwilling to rent their properties to elderly tenants. Even with building fires and exposed reinforcement bars, tenants continue to reside in “29th Street.”
Chen Mingzhi, the village chief of Rende in Sanchong District, New Taipei City, stated that “this is not just a problem in Sanchong, but a global issue. Because nearly all elderly tenants are single, many landlords are afraid that their property will become a haunted house if they rent it to them in the future.”
The houses in “29th Street” are quite narrow, over 50 meters long, and at the end of the long corridor, there is a deep-locked iron gate, making it difficult for residents to escape in case of an emergency.
The New Taipei City government has launched a project to demolish illegal constructions on the sixth floor and flammable wooden partitions on the first and second floors. However, if they want to install a complete fire protection system, the estimated cost would exceed NT$3 million (approx. USD $107,500), and property owners would need to pay for it themselves.