Victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake will be allowed to stay in temporary government housing for an additional year as new public housing construction lags in the three hardest-hit prefectures, sources said.
The central government’s decision to extend the temporary housing limit to four years came after it was found that only 55 percent of the new houses planned in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures are expected to be completed by the end of fiscal 2014.
Most of the victims living in temporary houses are now allowed to stay there through fiscal 2014.
The extension also means around 110,000 people still living in prefabricated temporary housing will have to continue to endure harsh living conditions.
About 300,000 people now live in temporary housing, including accommodations offered by the private sector and whose rent is subsidized by the government.
The biggest reason for the delayed construction is difficulty securing land.
“Most of the publicly owned land is occupied by temporary housing,” a municipality official said, “and negotiations with owners of private land are protracted in many cases.”
An official of Ishinomaki city, Miyagi Prefecture, pointed to a shortage of officials in charge of procuring land as another reason for the delay.
The central and local governments plan to build about 24,000 homes in the three prefectures for disaster victims to live in after they leave temporary housing.
Those new homes will be rented at reduced rates.
In Iwate Prefecture, 5,639 such homes are planned across 11 municipalities; 15,767 are planned in 21 municipalities in Miyagi; and 2,868 in 11 municipalities in Fukushima.
Land has been secured for 9,014 houses, or 37 percent of the total, in 37 municipalities. Construction of 2,567, or 11 percent, has already begun in 18 municipalities.
Just 56 homes, in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, and Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, have been completed.
Completion of 13,360 homes, or 55 percent, is expected by the end of fiscal 2014, and a further 5,100 homes, or 21 percent, are expected in fiscal 2015 or later.
There is currently no prospect of 5,814 homes, or 24 percent, being built.
Despite the delay, the number of planned houses is rising.
As of July last year, the planned number was 5,340 in Iwate, about 15,000 in Miyagi and some 1,300 in Fukushima. The total has increased by more than 2,600 over the past seven months.
Observers say that is because more people are seeking to move into publicly provided houses after abandoning hopes to rebuild their own homes due to difficulties securing a loan and other factors.
Fukushima Prefecture, the site of the nuclear disaster, has been conducting a survey of around 62,000 evacuees who left the prefecture due to the accident. Taking those evacuees into account, the prefecture estimates it will need 7,000 such homes.
In April last year, the central government extended the temporary housing period by one year from the two years in principle stated in the law on disaster relief.
After the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the period was extended three times, allowing some victims to live in temporary housing for five years.