yomiuri shinbun

Relocation plan gets under way / Iwanuma begins development; other cities struggling to move residents, yomiuri, 8/6/12

SENDAI–The city of Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture, on Sunday began developing plots of land for the mass relocation of people from disaster-hit communities, the first such project to be launched among similar plans in over 200 locations around the nation.

The Iwanuma project is scheduled to be completed in late March 2014.

However, many other municipalities cannot draft mass relocation projects because residents have not consented to such moves and sufficient land for mass relocations has not been secured yet.

A total of 471 households in six coastal areas of Iwanuma are subject to the relocation project. Of this number, 348 households will either build new homes on a 20-hectare plot to be developed in the Tamaura-Nishi district about three kilometers inland from their current locations, or relocate to 156 units in a housing complex for disaster victims. The complex will be developed and managed by the city government.

The total cost is estimated at 10.8 billion yen. The city government aims to complete the land development by July and then allocate land plots and construct the public housing units.

The city government emphasized speed regarding the mass relocation plan because it predicted that procurement of construction materials would be difficult and labor in short supply when mass relocation plans in other municipalities fully begin.

As the city stretches over the Sendai Plain, it was relatively easy to secure land. Residents also had little resistance to moving inland since there are no fishermen in the six areas covered by the plan.

These factors helped the city government carry out the plan quickly. The Iwanuma government also let each community decide where it would be relocated, which facilitated obtaining the residents’ consent.

Since the city government let residents of the same local communities live in the same temporary housing complexes, it helped the city coordinate residents’ opinions.

When working out the details of the project, the city government asked a university professor experienced in urban planning to mediate between the city government and residents.

However, other municipalities are having difficulties proceeding with mass relocation plans. In Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, the challenge is how to secure land for mass relocation.

Fifty households are seeking to relocate in the Katahama and Koyadate districts of the city, where residents are playing a leading role in mass relocation plans.

However, the city government could only secure enough land for 35 households, so only the first 35 applicants were accepted. The other households had to be turned away.

“It was painful to reject their relocation requests just because there wasn’t enough land,” said Kazuhiro Satsuta, 64, who coordinated the relocation plan.

The government of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, plans to develop 88 hectares of privately owned land in the Hebita district as a new urban area. But because the district has attractive features such as many large-scale commercial facilities, many disaster victims have wanted to buy land in the district since the disaster.

An official of a local real estate company said, “Prices there jumped from about 120,000 yen to 130,000 yen per tsubo [3.3 square meters] to around 200,000 yen.”

An increasing number of landowners are becoming unwilling to sell their land as they want to watch the movement of land prices more carefully.

This has caused land purchase negotiations between the city and landowners to proceed more slowly than expected.

(Aug. 6, 2012)

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About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.

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