Pricey Chiyoda Ward offers housing subsidies

by Tomoko Otake

In stark contrast to Koto Ward’s moves to curb its rising population, Chiyoda Ward last month began offering rent subsidies to eligible residents.

“To revitalize our community, we need more young families,” said Masanobu Yoshikawa, director of the ward’s housing division.

Yoshikawa said the 1.1 billion yen program is worth the cost, considering the ward’s aging population.

Without subsidies, younger people are usually unable to afford rent in the upmarket district, home to the Imperial Palace, government buildings and headquarters of major companies.

The ward, however, has limited recipients to those with longtime links to the area.

The monthly subsidy, of up to 70,000 yen for five years, is only being offered to the married children of those who have lived in the ward for 10 years or more.

Yoshikawa explained that the restrictions were introduced after studying cases in other wards.

Several local governments started offering rent subsidies to attract residents in the early 1990s, following an exodus after land prices soared during the asset-inflated bubble economy in the late 1980s, he said.

But some of the wards have found the subsidy programs ineffective and have recently scaled down or scrapped them altogether.

Shinjuku Ward, for example, started a rent subsidy lottery in 1991. The ward targeted newly married couples and families, and added young singles in 1993.

However, it abandoned the subsidies for newlyweds in 1998 because the program failed to keep them from moving away. Subsidies for young people and families were also scaled down.

Chiyoda Ward hopes that its rent subsidies will not be wasted if recipients are limited to people who already have links to the area, Yoshikawa said.

However, the official ruled out the possibility that the area will face a population surge like Koto Ward.

“We are not that big and the Imperial Palace makes up a large part of our ward,” he said. “I don’t think there is room for big redevelopment projects.”