Last October the Japanese edition of the magazine The Big Issue addressed the youth housing problem in Japan, conducting a survey of young Japanese in Tokyo and Osaka and interviewing several experts on the topic. Kobe University Professor of Human Development and Environmental Studies Yosuke Hirayama noted that changing demographics have caused housing problems for Japan’s youth. Most housing benefits came from “groups” that people joined – notably companies and families. Participation in these groups, however, is declining. People are waiting longer to get married, and the number of people with regular employment is falling. Housing subsidies and cheap company housing provided by companies for full-time employees enabled young people to save money, which they could put toward a house in the future.
Options for youth now are limited. Young singles are not usually eligible for cheap public housing, and while post-bubble deflation affected most of the economy, rents continued to rise. This has lead to “parasite singles” (youth who live rent-free with parents, draining their resources) and “net cafe refugees” (people who, not being able to make rent, turn to cheap options at net cafes for a place to turn in for the night).
Hitsuji Real Estate is a Web site that is doing its best to promote collective housing as a solution to the problem. The site, which started in 2005, maintains an extensive list of apartment shares across Japan, most of which are in the Kanto area. In exchange for listings on the site, which include professional photographs, apartments must meet the standards of the site. This is in contrast to the looser atmosphere of roomshare.jp, a message board where those with rooms to rent and those looking for rooms can freely post messages and search text listings.