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Thursday, 2 July 2015

Fukushima Evacuees Harder Access To Housing


Back in 2011 PM Kan told Fukushima evacuees they could go home very soon. This was probably not what he meant. 

The current Japanese government has been in the process of a push to force evacuees to return to the evacuation zone through a number of measures. Compensation payments would be cut and efforts to reopen some services in the disaster area were implemented. While this would leave many with no further aid, a new effort will make it even harder to not return to the evacuation zone.

In 2013 the Reconstruction Agency told local municipalities to not exempt evacuees from tough requirements to obtain public housing when their compensated housing expires. The Reconstruction Agency admitted that the plan is to force people to return home, they made this statement in that meeting “basically the policy is for a return to Fukushima”. 

So not only will they cut off people’s compensation funding and aid, they will do whatever possible to make it harder for them to leave on their own or stay evacuated.

For more information about how Japan’s public housing system works, the Yen for Living blog at Japan Times has some helpful information.

Central gov't wanted voluntary Fukushima evacuees to enter draws for public housing
The central government told prefectural governments in October 2013 to not exempt Fukushima nuclear disaster voluntary evacuees from having to enter draws for access to public housing after the free rent period for their current residences ends, it has been learned.

Voluntary evacuees are living in regular residences recognized as temporary homes, for which they pay no rent until the end of March 2017. The central government's instruction came in regards to a policy called "Smoothing of (evacuees') entrance into public housing," which is based on an evacuee support law passed in June 2012 under the Democratic Party of Japan administration. The policy is supposed to loosen tough requirements defined by the Act on Public Housing for entrance into local government-run homes, such as income caps, and was included in fundamental policies of the support law that were approved by the Cabinet on Oct. 11, 2013.

The day before the Cabinet decision, the Reconstruction Agency and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism summoned representatives from the governments of municipalities with many Fukushima evacuees, like those of Tokyo and Saitama and Niigata prefectures, for a meeting. The Mainichi Shimbun obtained minutes of the meeting recorded by multiple municipal governments.

According to the minutes, a representative from the Reconstruction Agency explained that "basically the policy is for a return to Fukushima" and then gave details about the support law and the policy, and responded to questions from municipal government representatives.

When representatives from prefectures including Saitama asked about how to handle voluntary evacuees who want to move into public housing after their free rent period for their current residences ends, a ministry representative said the ministry wanted them to not give those evacuees any exemption from having to enter draws for entrance into the housing.

If voluntary evacuees have to enter draws for access to public housing, they might not succeed, and will be stuck without cheap public housing when free rent at their evacuation home runs out.
When a representative asked about the demand among evacuees for the "Smoothing of (evacuees') entrance into public housing" policy, a government representative said, "The amount of demand is unknown," suggesting that the policy was made without being based on studies of evacuees' desires.
Many municipalities are restricting application for public housing to evacuees who did not originally live in those areas. A question regarding whether these restrictions needed to be changed came up at the meeting, but a central government representative said, "We don't want changes (to the restrictions)," and asked municipal governments to operate regulations regarding public housing application according to their interpretation.

In June 2014, the land ministry distributed to municipal governments a collection of questions and answers about the policy, indicating strict requirements for allowing voluntary evacuees entrance into public housing without having to enter draws. The questions and answers were not released to the public. The Mainichi Shimbun made an information disclosure request and found that publically released documents on the policy make no mention at all of entering public housing without entering draws.

The policy went into effect in October 2014. According to the Reconstruction Agency, 40 prefectural and major city governments are accepting applications for public housing, but due to factors including lack of publicity on the policy, they have only given out 50 applications.
A land ministry representative says, "We cannot treat voluntary evacuees the same as forced evacuees, who are allowed entrance into public housing without entering draws. In the end, the methods taken are the decision of municipal governments."

On June 15, the Fukushima Prefectural Government announced it would consider its own support measures to accompany the end of free rent period for the around 25,000 estimated voluntary evacuees using apartments and the like as temporary evacuation residences.

Source: Mainichi
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