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Populist housing policies for the rich?

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Housing needs of poor still not met in first-time homebuyer program even after several revisions, yet many handouts for the rich included. 

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EDITORIAL: Housing rights for whom? (7/10/2011)


The Yingluck government's policy to help first-time homebuyers has been so roundly criticised for supporting only the well-off, that the government has been forced to widen the scheme in order to appease disappointed voters.

The controversial scheme allows a tax exemption of up to 500,000 baht for first-time buyers of homes that cost no more than 5 million baht. Since low-income earners do not have to pay tax anyway, this means the programme is aimed mainly at benefiting those in the upper income bracket who already own homes, and will most likely use nominees to buy another house in order to enjoy the tax exemption.

The scheme also came under fire for primarily benefiting real estate companies since it did not cover second-hand houses or people who wanted to build their own homes. So, in order to appease critics, the cabinet earlier this week came up with an additional measure: the Government Housing Bank (GHB) will now extend loans, interest-free for 3 years, to first-time buyers of homes costing under 1 million baht. This 3-year-no-interest window is also open to those purchasing second-hand houses possessed by the bank and costing under 1 million baht. Those wishing to build their own homes may also seek 1-million-baht loans at no interest for 3 years.

Do all these add-ons reflect the government's poorly thought-out policy, or its openness to flexibility? The answer depends on who you ask. But one thing is certain: the first-time house ownership scheme is still far from fulfilling the poor people's fundamental right to housing security.

Incidentally, this week also saw a big rally at Government House marking World Habitat Day. The rally highlighted the poor people's housing and land insecurity problems, which have been caused primarily by state policies and industrial mega projects.

There are more than 2,700 communities and 1.2 million people in national forests. Many have been living there for generations. Yet they are under constant threat of losing their homes and lands because the relatively recent forestry law prohibits all human settlement in national forests.

The villagers also question the state policy to lease out forest land to investors of tree plantations, which often force out local communities

Needless to say, the villagers are being denied these same land leasing rights. Elsewhere, many villagers are also fighting against industrial projects that will destroy their livelihoods and their communities.

Meanwhile, there are more than 1,000 slums in Bangkok and other big cities. The residents are under constant threat of eviction, even though their cheap labour keeps the cost of living in the city relatively low.

Like the rural poor, urban slum dwellers feel the government's financial subsidy for first-time home owners benefits only salaried, white-collar workers and not those labouring in the informal sector.

These urban poor prefer state support for communal housing - designed by the inhabitants themselves and located near their workplace - rather than the slum relocation schemes which do very little to serve their needs.

It is a wonderful idea, helping people to have a home. But the government seems interested only in policy gimmicks, without any real concern for housing rights. That is why its policy has ended up benefiting mainly the business sector and the well-off, while those really in need of housing and land security continue to be overlooked, as always.

(Source: Bangkok Post, EDITORIAL, Housing rights for whom, 7/10/2011, link

Housing Rights Vocabulary

World Habitat Day - observed every year on the first Monday of October throughout the world. It was officially designated by the United Nations and first celebrated in 1986. The purpose of the day is to reflect on the state of our cities and towns and the basic human right to adequate shelter. It also aims to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the habitat of future generations. (See Wikipedia)

housing - a place to live for an individual or family (without a place to live the family is homeless)

first-time house ownership scheme

first-time homebuyer program

rights - something you are legally or morally allowed to do or have สิทธิ์ (See Wikipedia)

housing rights - the right to adequate shelter; housing adequate for the health and wellbeing of a person and their family, recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (See Wikipedia)

shelter - a place to live and stay; protected from the dangers of the street and bad weather (See Wikipedia)
dwelling - a place where someone lives

slum - a run-down area of a city with a low standard of housing "lacking in tenure security" meaning that "eviction" is common (See Wikipedia)
more than 1,000 slums in Bangkok


eviction
- the legal act of forcing someone to leave a building or land; removing them from a building or land they are living in  การขับไล่ออกจากพื้นที่ การไล่ที่ (See Wikipedia on eviction and Center for Housing Rights and Evictions)

urban
-  in a city or town ในเมือง
dwellers - people who live in a place
urban slum dwellers - people who live in city slums

Also see the next two items:

Ban Mankong home-building and land-sharing projects - launched by the Thai government in January 2003, as part of its efforts to address the housing problems of the country’s poorest urban citizens. The program channels government funds, in the form of infrastructure subsidies and soft housing and land loans, directly to poor communities, which plan and carry out improvements to their housing, environment and basic services and manage the budget themselves (See website)

Community Organisations Development Institute (CODI) -
a Thai government agency formed in 2000, runs  Baan Mankong, the Thai government’sambitious national programme for upgrading and secure tenure (Read description)

residents - people who live in a particular place or area ชาวบ้านในบริเวณ ผู้อาศัยในบริเวณ
residents
are under constant threat of eviction

policy
- a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group นโยบาย (See Wikipedia)

well-off
(adjective) - rich; has a lot of money

criticise (verb) - talking about all the things that are wrong and bad about a project or idea วิจารณ์
roundly criticised - completely and thoroughly criticised (criticized all aspects of a thing)
criticism (noun) - finding all the problems and things that are wrong with an idea or project

critics (noun) - 1. people who don't like something and who state their opinion about it; 2. people who look for things that are wrong and bad about a project or idea นักวิจารณ์

appease
- to say or do something in order to make someone feel less angry ปลอบใจ หรือทำให้เป็นที่พอใจ
appease critics - do things to make critics happy (so that they do not find problems with the scheme anymore)

under fire - criticized (critics found problems in it) 
the scheme also came under fire for primarily benefiting real estate companies

scheme - a plan that is developed by a government or large organisation in order to provide a particular service for people แผนการ โครงการ
widen the scheme - increase the number of people who can receive benefits under the scheme

disappointed - unhappy because someone or something was not as good as you hoped or expected, or because something did not happen ผิดหวัง
appease disappointed voters - make disappointed happy again (so that they are no longer disappointed)

controversial
- a subject that people disagree about and argue about ความขัดแย้ง ความไม่ลงรอยกัน
controversial scheme - a scheme that people disagree about

income - money that people receive from work or some other source, used for household consumption and savings
income bracket - group of people who earn an income in a certain range (used for calculate the taxes they owe)

upper income bracket -
rich people 
the programme is aimed mainly at benefiting those in the upper income bracket

nominees -
people who pretend to act for themselves (but are actually working for another person)

exemption - permission to not have to do something, such as making a payment, following a rule, etc. ข้อยกเว้น
tax exemption - when you do not have to pay some tax 
enjoy the tax exemption - actually get or use the "tax exemption" (and not pay the taxes) 

use nominees to buy another house in order to enjoy the tax exemption

X covers Y -
programme or policy X includes Y
did not cover second-hand houses -
the programme does not include old houses (that someone has already lived in)

measure - an action taken to solve a particular problem มาตรการ
an additional measure -

interest - payments made for the use of another's money for a period of time
interest-free loan -
have to pay the money back (but no "interest" charge for borrowing the money)

extend loan -
offer a loan to a person or a company
extend loans
, interest-free for 3 years

3-year-no-interest window
- a period of time for 3 years when borrowers don't have to pay interest 

second-hand
- already used, not new, has already had a owner
second-hand houses possessed by the bank

add-ons - extra things ("added on" to the original things offered)

reflect - to show สะท้อน แสดงถึง
X reflects Y - X shows Y

poorly thought-out policy - badly planned policy

flexibility - can change easily and adapt to new situations and conditions as they occur ความยืดหยุ่น
openness to flexibility

fundamental - very important and essential พื้นฐาน รากฐานที่สำคัญ

security - the need to provide safety from some danger (attack, harm, damage, homelessness) ความปลอดภัย
insecurity - not providing safety from some danger

housing security -
being safe and protected from losing your home or apartment and the right to live in safe and healthy housing

fundamental right to housing security.
far from fulfilling the poor people's fundamental right to housing security.

incidentally
, ... - by the way, ... (mentioning something that is not directly relevant to what they are talking about)

rally
- a large public gathering of people to support someone or to protest against something การชุมนุม การชุมนุมประท้วง  เดินประท้วง

highlighted - stressed; emphasized; made something more noticeable ที่เน้นย้ำ
highlighted the poor people's housing and land insecurity problems

national forests - forest land owned by the forestry department of the government

living there for generations


constant
- continuous; all the time ต่อเนื่อง
threat - a danger อันตราย
under constant threat - there is always a danger

under constant threat of losing their homes and lands

human settlement - a place where people come to live, such as a village or town ชุมชน
relatively recent forestry law prohibits all human settlement in national forests.


lease - renting; allowing the use of something for regular payments of money; a legal agreement in which you pay money in order to use a building, piece of land, vehicle, etc. for a period of time สัญญาเช่า
lease out  land - rent out land

plantations
- large commercial farms with many workers growing commodity crops such as rubber, sugar, coffee or trees
tree plantations -
large farms that grow trees

state policy to lease out forest land to investors of tree plantations

local
- in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about ท้องถิ่น
force out local communities -

denied
- not allowed or given something
denied these same land leasing rights - not allowed the same land leasing rights (given to large commercial tree plantations)

livelihoods
- ways to earn money to support a family (See glossary)
industrial projects that will destroy their livelihoods

rural - countryside, farming area (farms, forests), not the city ในชนบท, บ้านนอก
the rural poor

subsidy
- an amount of money that a government or organisation pays to help to reduce the cost of a produce or service เงินชดเชยที่รัฐเป็นผู้จ่ายให้  เงินสนับสนุน
financial subsidy - same as "subsidy" but stressing that "money is being given"
 
financial subsidy for first-time home owners benefits

salaried, white-collar workers -
the permanent employees of large companies protected from being fired easily (job security)

informal
sector - people who do not have a permanent job with a large company, so they must get temporary work where they can find it, in a factory, selling noodles, etc

benefits
(noun) - goods things that can happen from and activity ผลประโยชน์
X benefits Y - X is a good thing that group Y gets

informal sector -
temporary jobs often with low wages (in construction or at large exporters, for example), not permanent jobs at large companies (= formal sector) 

support - help, by giving money, for example สนับสนุน
state support - when the government helps by giving money

inhabitants
- people or animals who live in a place or area สิ่งมีชีวิตในบริเวณ
state support for communal housing - designed by the inhabitants themselves and located near their workplace

relocation - the process of moving someone or something to a new place การย้ายที่ใหม่
schemes - systems for achieving some goal
slum relocation schemes - moving poor people who live on valuable city land to a place outside the city that is much less valuable

gimmicks - something that looks and sounds good, but really does nothing 
policy gimmicks - policies that look good (but they are not good when you look at them closely)

concern
- a worry ความกังวล
without any real concern for housing rights

overlooked
- not addressing a problem

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