A Taiwan military veteran organizes residential community in Beijing

By Zhou Yu Source:Global Times Published: 2015-5-22 5:03:01

Jiang Shunfang stands in the garden of the Regal Riviera. Photo: Li Hao/GT

For Jiang Shunfang, a trip to the mainland to search for his ancestral home resulted in him becoming the guardian of many homes.

Born in Taiwan in 1963, Jiang served in the Taiwan military for 19 years. As his forefathers came from Beijing, he decided to get back to his roots.

Jiang bought an apartment in the Regal Riviera residential compound in 2004. The compound is located near Beijing's Central Business District next to the east fourth ring road, and the property owners here are mainly middle class. The complex has 4,000 households, which is 12 times larger than the average residential compound in Taiwan.

Ten years ago, as one of the first people to buy a property in the Regal Riviera, he discovered that in the mainland, owners' committees were a rare thing. In Taiwan, once people purchase their houses, they will join owners' committees to help supervise the property management company. He found that this wasn't the case in the mainland. When conflicts arose as a result of malfunctioning facilities or poor service, owners had no means to supervise the company managing their properties.

"In Taiwan, if you are not satisfied with the situation, you need to speak up, otherwise the situation won't get better," Jiang told the Global Times.

At that time, there was no specific laws to support property owners. The regulations for establishing an owners' committee were complicated, and required a household occupancy rate of more than 50 percent. His first attempt to set up such a committee in 2005 failed. 

After satisfying the occupancy rate requirement, Jiang tried again in 2008. But he was told by the local residential authority that this was not possible as the Regal Riviera was divided into four sections and one of them was still under construction. Only after all four sections were completed and achieved the required occupancy rate could he set up the committee.

But Jiang is not a man to back down from failures. While waiting for approval, he had already started networking and providing free community services. 

Winning the community's trust

Jiang knew his past as a military veteran from Taiwan was a problem. At first, the local residential authority didn't trust him, the other property owners didn't know him and the property management ignored him. But he didn't care.

As a trained pilot, he knew how to repair machinery. This proved extremely useful in 2005, when the Regal Riviera's heating system broke down and the engineers said they couldn't repair it. Jiang took his tools and helped 70 households repair their heating systems for free.

Jiang also organized a football team, a basketball team, and all kinds of outdoor activities for residents, even fashion shows. Residents and local officials started to get to know and trust him.

Economic incentives also pushed owners to establish the owners' committee. The revenues from advertising in the compound's garden and elevators used to go directly to the property management company. Without the proper checks and balances, a large amount of advertising income ended up in the wrong people's pockets.

After another four years, in 2012, he finally received approval to set up the owners' committee.  As a result of his seven years of providing free services, Jiang was elected secretary of the committee.

Owners' committees are still a rare thing in Beijing. According to media reports, only 20 percent of communities have such committees, but many of them are dysfunctional.

A tough start

Jiang was well prepared and ready to serve.

Revenue from advertising was the main source of conflict between the property management company and owners. It took Jiang one year to sort out the complex chain of interested parties. He reevaluated old contracts and arranged new ones with advertisers and vendors. During that time, he received many threatening calls in the middle of the night telling him not to get involved in the deals. Jiang just shrugged them off. "I never worried about these calls," he said, "As a veteran soldier with 19 years of experience, I won't back down because of those threats."

His persistence paid off. The revenue generated from advertising and vendors is now three times larger than before, reaching 1.3 million yuan ($209,000) each year, which can be used to repair the complex's facilities and provide better services.

Jiang made all these contracts public so that each owner could check the deals.

Jiang likes to prepare fully before carrying out any repairs. "I would explain to them why we need to repair a facility, what will happen if we don't repair it, and why the value of our houses will depreciate," he said, "I don't just use words, but also photos. I take photos of broken facilities to show the owners the real situation."

"Jiang is a person who talks and acts rationally. He always explains to the owners their rights and responsibilities," said one Regal Riviera's resident.

But Jiang wonders how, if there are so many laws on property management, so few of them are really useful for a residential community's actual situation.

"In Taiwan, there are only two pages of such laws, but they solve the fundamental problem, which is that owners have to pay property management fees," he said.

Jiang believes that this is because residents in Taiwan know their rights and responsibilities better. The law in Taiwan is strict in forcing owners to pay management fees, which have to be paid to the owners' committee directly. The committee then pays it to property management company, so that the owners have full control over the money. Every month, households that have not paid their fees are publicized in elevators and residential billboards. The owners' committees in Taiwan have the right to sue individual owners and ask courts to deprive them of their property rights. In the mainland, owners pay their fees directly to the property management company. 

A plea to reason

During the preparation period, most of the owners were passionate about establishing the committee. But after its establishment, some owners believed that the committee was obliged to satisfy their requirements, whether they were reasonable or not.

Some owners assumed that the committee was there to serve them totally. One resident who hadn't paid his management fees for seven years asked Jiang to help him persuade the property management to allow him to rent a parking space. Jiang asked him to first pay two years worth of unpaid management fees,  and then he would negotiate with the management. But the resident was dissatisfied with Jiang's response and accused him of "being bribed by the property management company."

"My biggest concern is the owners. The excessive expansion of private interests among owners is growing rapidly. They aren't thinking from a communal perspective," Jiang said.

Jiang does feel pressure and the work makes him tired, but he is seeing a growing awareness of responsibilities among the other owners.

"A community is like a baby. You need to take care of this baby. A baby has many health problems. The healthier it gets, the more you love it," he said.

Newspaper headline: Keeping house

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