National

Seniors mull share house to keep Fukushima evacuee community intact

Kyodo

As the government looks to lift the evacuation zone for part of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, elderly people currently living in temporary dwellings are considering a share house so they can stay together.

If the no-go zone is lifted, residents at temporary housing units are likely to be asked to leave. One option is to return to their hometown of Minamisoma’s Odaka district — a choice few are likely to make. Another option is to move in to city-provided public housing where they would have to start again in unfamiliar surrounds.

In Odaka, residents will be allowed to stay inside the evacuation zone to prepare for their permanent return after the designation is lifted. But of the area’s 11,700 residents, only 1,870 have registered to go back, suggesting few plan to return permanently.

It’s for this reason that Masaharu Fujishima, 70, a resident at Minamisoma’s temporary housing complex, is pitching a plan to create a share house with individual rooms and common space that will allow temporary housing residents who have bonded since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster to live together.

Fujishima evacuated from Odaka to temporary housing in the city center. Serving as head of the community association until January, he was able to talk with many residents about the troubles they faced as they attempted to rebuild their lives.

Many were worried about leaving a community of friends they bonded with over the past five years for a new one they would need to create from scratch.

“After the nuclear disaster, many people had to move around before they finally settled in the temporary housing,” said Fujishima. “I’m worried that if they leave here, they would have to go through all the trouble again of searching for a new place to live.”

So far, Fujishima has held three meetings for temporary housing residents to explain his proposal. While some feedback has been positive, with residents saying it will prevent them from becoming senile, others have voiced concern about what will happen when one of the dwellers becomes ill or dies.

To put the plan in motion, Fujishima submitted about 16,000 signatures to the Minamisoma Municipal Assembly.

The city is expected to consider the proposal, though a city official in charge of housing construction was not sure if the idea is feasible.

“It is difficult because public houses are not designed for many people to live together like a share house,” the official said.