Tzu Chi signs the "Sturdy Homes Project" collaboration agreement with Hualien County Government. |Photo courtesy of Tzu Chi Foundation | 2024/06/2

June 3 marks two months since the devastating Hualien earthquake on April 3. In the immediate aftermath, Tzu Chi swiftly provided short-term assistance, helping with disaster relief efforts such as setting up emergency shelters, distributing relief funds, offering hot meals, and assisting in repairing homes with minor damages.

On June 2, Tzu Chi officially signed the "Sturdy Homes Project" collaboration agreement with the Hualien County Government for post-disaster reconstruction. |Photo courtesy of Tzu Chi Foundation | 2024/06/2

On June 2, a signing ceremony for the "Sturdy Homes Project" collaboration agreement took place in the county government's main hall. Hualien County Magistrate Chen-Wei Hsu and Tzu Chi Charity Foundation CEO Po-Wen Yen signed the agreement, marking the start of a joint effort for disaster recovery and reconstruction. Future residents were also invited to the ceremony, providing an opportunity for open dialogue and exchange.

Hualien County Magistrate Chen-wei Hsu |Photo courtesy of Tzu Chi Foundation | 2024/06/2

Hualien County Magistrate Chen-wei Hsu said that the April 3 Hualien earthquake caused extensive damage to over a hundred buildings, affecting 1,949 households. Many homes, into which residents had poured their life savings, have been assessed to be moderately to severely damaged, leaving owners to choose between reconstruction or seismic reinforcement. The Hualien County Government has introduced various subsidy measures to address these damaged structures. Magistrate Hsu expressed gratitude for the assistance provided by various sectors and specifically thanked the Tzu Chi Foundation for not only helping repair damaged homes but also for pledging to construct permanent housing for the affected residents.

The earthquake has not only displaced residents but also severely impacted Hualien's economy. With tourism being a big part of Hualien's economy, the earthquake has significantly affected many local businesses and people's livelihood. Magistrate Hsu emphasized that stable housing is essential for people to rebuild their lives, making housing solutions an urgent priority. The Hualien County Government has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to post-disaster reconstruction, aiming to help residents return to normalcy as soon as possible.

Po-Wen Yen, CEO of Tzu Chi Charity Foundation | Photo courtesy of Tzu Chi Foundation | 2024/06/2

The CEO of Tzu Chi Charity Foundation, Po-Wen Yen, recounted that within 20 minutes of the April 3 earthquake, Tzu Chi established a command center with its founder, Master Cheng Yen, personally overseeing the efforts. From the outset of planning for reconstruction, Master Cheng Yen emphasized the importance of building permanent homes. The transitional housing Tzu Chi is constructing for the quake survivors will meet high standards, including strong seismic resistance. In the future, the Tzu Chi Foundation, along with its volunteers and partners, will continue to work towards making Hualien even better.

Tzu Chi's Sturdy Homes are designed as low-rise, clustered residential units. The initial plan includes 112 studio apartments and 32 two-bedroom units, accommodating a total of 352 people. Each unit, including shared facilities, ranges from approximately 55 to 98 square meters. The community will feature a community center, parking spaces for cars and motorcycles, elevators, and will provide both transitional and permanent housing functions. The location offers excellent living amenities and convenient transportation options.

Concept drawings of Tzu Chi’s Sturdy Homes.

Mr. Lin, one of the future residents of Tzu Chi’s Sturdy Homes, was a resident of the Uranus Building which was left precariously titled after the earthquake. Following the earthquake, his family of five has been split up and is now living in three different accommodations. Mr. Lin has expressed his trust in Tzu Chi's construction, saying: "We feel at ease knowing it will build by Tzu Chi." He also expressed gratitude for the meals that Tzu Chi volunteers provided in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake when they were temporarily sheltered at Zhong Hua Elementary School.

Mr. Lin's daughter is currently staying at a friend's house. Regarding the design of the future housing she'll be moving into, she expressed, "The presentation was very detailed, with considerations for the needs of both the elderly and children. I find it very thoughtful." She also appreciated the inclusion of elevators in the transitional housing for the benefit of elderly residents.

Tzu Chi aims to complete construction of these “sturdy homes” within a year. These homes, designed as mid-term housing, will offer a haven for those who lost their homes in the earthquake, providing shelter from the elements. The project allows the affected residents to live in these homes for up to three years, with future plans to convert them into social housing.

May the disaster-stricken residents have a safe and secure place to call home as soon as possible.