• Kyodo

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People uprooted from their homes after the March 2011 disasters and now living in state-subsidized rental housing in Sendai say they will need continued support from the government after funding for the program ends next spring, a survey by a Sendai-based nonprofit organization has found.

Although 51 percent of the residents surveyed want to remain in the properties, 93 percent said they cannot afford full-market rent, the research showed.

Rather than purpose-built, prefabricated units used as temporary homes for many of the evacuees, the residents surveyed live in quasi-temporary housing under a system whereby authorities rent properties from the private sector and let them to evacuees at concessionary rates or for free.

As with the prefab units, many residents will see their subsidized contracts end in spring next year, five years after the disaster.

But the survey by the Personal Support Center found that of the residents, “a considerable number are having great difficulty putting their lives back in order, and cutting off their rent waivers all at once could have major detrimental effects.”

Researcher Taku Sugano, a board member at the center and also part of the Kobe-based Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution, mailed the questionnaire to 2,658 households in subsidized rental housing in March last year, and received 802 responses.

Among the 51 percent of respondents who want to stay in their present accommodation after the deadline, only 8 percent said they could continue to live there paying the rent in full.

Seven percent of the group said they could handle paying 80 percent of the rent, 18 percent said they could pay 60 percent, 23 percent said they could shoulder 40 percent, and 17 percent said they could pay 20 percent.

The largest proportion, 28 percent, said they could only afford to remain in the properties if the rent was fully subsidized.

The answers were correlated with respondents’ incomes — those who said they could pay the full rent reported an average annual income of ¥4.21 million, while those who felt they could pay 40 percent of the rent or less earned just ¥2.35 million.

Sugano said the research shows some of the households will need to continue receiving aid, reflecting their income.

Even as prefabricated units in the disaster areas continue to empty out, authorities are “worrying about how to get (residents) to move out of the subsidized rental housing,” a government source said.

In January, Miyagi Prefecture said it plans to allow local authorities and residents to continue temporary housing arrangements beyond the five-year deadline on condition that the authorities have almost finished arranging public housing for disaster victims.

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