Fukushima may end free housing for voluntary nuclear evacuees in 2017

JIJI

The Fukushima Prefectural Government may stop providing free accommodations at the end of March 2017 for people who voluntarily left areas in the prefecture not subject to nuclear evacuation advisories, sources said.

Officials hope to encourage people who evacuated on their own to return home, but the proposed end to the assistance will certainty draw objections from them.

There have been calls in some Fukushima municipalities that are worried about the lack of progress in the return home of evacuees for an end to the support program.

The prefecture will decide after listening to the opinions of local officials later this month, the sources said.

Of about 115,000 people who have taken refuge in and outside the prefecture, some 36,000 are believed to be from areas that are not covered by the central government’s evacuation advisories for radiation from the nuclear crisis that started in 2011.

Many voluntary evacuees are people with children as well as former residents of such areas as the town of Hirono, the village of Kawauchi and the city of Minamisoma, all geographically close to the government-designated evacuation zones.

They sought refuge outside their hometowns mainly due to concerns over exposure to radiation from the reactor meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Under the Disaster Relief Act, the prefectural government provides prefabricated temporary housing for nuclear evacuees for free and fully finances their rent for private apartments.

The aid program was originally supposed to run two years, but it was extended by a year twice, with the current version set to expire at the end of next March. For voluntary evacuees, the prefecture hopes to terminate the assistance after another one-year extension, the sources said.

It is looking at continuing the free accommodations for people who fled the designated evacuation areas, the sources said.