Temporary housing closed to quake victims

by Eric Johnston

Staff writer

KOBE — As Hyogo Prefecture officials ordered temporary housing structures closed Wednesday, 4 1/2 years after the Kobe earthquake, there were still about 700 families depending on them.

Early the following morning, the apartments in Nishinomiya and Kobe’s Suma and Nagata wards were mostly deserted. Bedding and household items sat in piles on several street corners.

Of the families evicted from the temporary housing Wednesday, about 540 have signed contracts to move into either public housing facilities or private apartments currently under construction near their old homes. In the meantime, they have agreed to relocate to vacant public housing units or private apartments outside their old neighborhoods.

Hyogo officials say they expect construction of all permanent housing units to be completed within a year.

The estimated 160 households who have not yet secured permanent housing will be allowed to continue living in temporary housing units until they move to vacant public housing units.

After that, their situation is unclear. Some will eventually move one last time into permanent public housing. While Hyogo Prefecture and Kobe city can provide limited financial assistance in the form of loans and moving expenses, many residents are retired and say they cannot afford to move twice, even with government assistance.

The June 30 deadline was a three-month extension granted by the prefecture following complaints by temporary housing residents that most of them could not make the original March 31 move deadline.

While many public housing units in Kobe and Hyogo have stood empty for some time, those in temporary housing complained that such housing was too far away from their jobs, schools, and old neighborhoods.