National

3/11 survivors face loneliness after moving into public housing for disaster victims

KYODO

In a recent poll of people in the March 2011 disaster-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima who moved to public housing for survivors, nearly half said they feel that interactions with neighbors have decreased since they moved to the housing complexes from temporary accommodation and other places.

The results, released in March, show that survivors are feeling lonely having moved away from the place where they had settled.

In the survey, conducted by Kyodo News in December on 100 survivors in the prefectures, 45 respondents felt interaction with neighbors had declined, while 42 people felt it was unchanged and 13 thought it had actually increased.

Public housing for disaster victims has been built as permanent accommodation for those who evacuated to temporary makeshift housing following the 2011 disaster. Rent is based on the size of the unit and household income. According to the Reconstruction Agency, 29,474 housing units had been built in the three prefectures as of the end of December.

Takeo Fujiwara, 90, who lives in a complex in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, is one victim who feels lonely.

“I don’t have interactions with my neighbors and many don’t participate in events at the housing complex,” said Fujiwara, whose house and the inn he ran were swept away by the tsunami.

Yoshimi Ono, 71, a senior member of a community group in Sendai, agrees.

“I can’t communicate with new residents. There was an instance in which (an elderly resident) was found to be dead” only after a few days, said Ono.

According to the survey, 39 respondents said they were either unsatisfied or partially unsatisfied with their housing, while 61 people were either satisfied or partially satisfied.

The rent will rise as they stay longer at the housing complex. A 58-year-old women who evacuated from the village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, to the city of Fukushima works as a part-timer, paying ¥20,000 for rent out of her ¥90,000 monthly income.

“If the rent goes up, I won’t be able to survive,” she said.

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