Extra work jacking up disaster housing costs

Homes built for tsunami victims not made with cold in mind

JIJI

Construction costs for temporary housing compounds built in areas hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami are snowballing.

Some 52,000 temporary housing units have been built in the three hardest-hit northeastern prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry initially put standard construction costs at ¥2,387,000 per unit. But the actual cost has risen to around ¥6 million because the estimate didn’t take into account expenses for developing nonflooded land as construction sites, and for setting up water and power systems, people familiar with the situation said.

Repeated work to reinforce insulation in the walls and roofs and add double glazing to the windows of the frigid units also pushed up the costs.

The three Tohoku prefectures had already estimated per-unit costs of ¥5.2 million to ¥5.5 million, including expenses for protection against cold weather and snow. But those numbers had climbed to ¥5.68 million in Iwate, ¥6.64 million in Miyagi and ¥5.74 million in Fukushima on average by the end of March.

The increases are also being attributed to additional work to make bathrooms and rest-rooms barrier-free, as well as to build more gathering places for residents and to pave gravel areas. Officials from the prefectures said they never imagined the costs running this high.

But costs are expected to climb even higher — by some ¥500,000 per unit — as the central government pushes for adding water-reheating functions to the baths and storage facilities.

Furthermore, 80 percent of the temporary housing compounds will eventually require ¥1 million each for demolition costs, taking total expenses above ¥8 million in Miyagi Prefecture.

Fukushima officials blamed the central government for failing to draft housing specifications for snowy regions in the first place.

“The additional work consumed time, resources and money,” they said.

An official at the Japan Prefabricated Construction Suppliers & Manufacturers Association said hundreds of thousands of yen could have been saved if the additional work hadn’t been required.

Message for Britons

Kyodo

Emperor Akihito on Friday hopes to convey to Britons his sense of gratitude for the various kinds of assistance extended by them in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which devastated the coastline of the Tohoku region.

The Emperor, 78, and Empress Michiko, 77, will visit Britain starting Wednesday for celebrations marking Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne.

In a statement released Friday on the upcoming visit through the Imperial Household Agency, the Emperor referred to the 60 years since he, as the then 19-year-old Crown Prince, attended the queen’s coronation ceremony in London in 1953.