Plans to build new public apartments for the nuclear refugees in Fukushima Prefecture are stalling because the prefectural government is struggling to attract bids from contractors.
On Jan. 31, Fukushima announced that a project for a 16-unit concrete apartment complex in the city of Aizuwakamatsu in the western part of the prefecture failed to attract bidders. It failed because the eight private contractors who participated didn’t make offers that matched the prefecture’s budget amid surging demand for labor and materials in disaster-hit Tohoku.
It was Fukushima’s second public housing project to attract bids. Last August, an offer for a 20-unit apartment block in the city of Koriyama also failed twice. The prefecture finally found a contractor after raising the initial price twice.
Efforts to acquire land for new apartments are also stalling as negotiations with landowners are taking longer than expected. Of the 3,700 units scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015, only 60 percent, or 2,360, were ready to be built, unhindered by land acquisition problems.
Because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that unfolded in March 2011, six towns and villages that had to be evacuated — Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba, Namie, Katsurao and Iitate — plan to build “out-of-town” communities where reinforced public apartments play a central role. The prefecture plans to build 4,890 units to house people from these and 13 other municipalities.
The prefecture has not come up with good ideas to expedite public housing, and the evacuees are facing the very real possibility they could be in temporary lodging for years to come. The fastest project to be completed so far is the 20-unit complex in Koriyama, which won’t start accepting residents until October.
When the evacuees move in, the prefectural government plans to let groups of residents who formed close ties in the shelters occupy neighboring units at the new apartments so those relationships can be preserved.
This is a lesson learned from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, when the shift to permanent public housing severed bonds the evacuees had formed in its aftermath, leaving them socially isolated and leading to a surge in solitary deaths.
The town government of Tomioka in Fukushima Prefecture plans to call on other municipalities in the prefecture’s Futaba county to join in building “temporary towns” for their residents in the same place since they are not expected to be able to return to their homes in the near future due to high levels of radiation from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The Tomioka municipal government envisages temporary towns in three locations — Tomioka’s low-radiation area, the city of Iwaki and the city of Koriyama.
These plans are contained in a set of documents the town government presented at a meeting of its reconstruction panel in Koriyama on April 20.
Panel chairman Shiro Tanaka, who is the town’s deputy mayor, said after the meeting that infrastructure can be established at an early date by creating “temporary towns” jointly with other towns. Tanaka also expressed his intention to promote talks with other municipalities in Futaba county.
Tanaka hinted at mergers of municipalities within the county in the future. “Cooperation with other municipalities would give major momentum to restoration efforts and might lead to discussions of mergers between them,” he said.
Tanaka also said the municipalities should work together and coordinate on the locations of life-service facilities, such as hospitals, nursing-care and welfare facilities and commercial facilities, in the temporary towns.
Developers are snapping up land plots in upland areas of tsunami-hit coastal cities in the Tohoku region at inflated prices, pushing up land values and hampering local governments’ mass relocation plans, it has emerged.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s standard land price report for 2012, which was released on Sept. 19, land plots in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures made the top 10 list of highest appreciation rates for residential properties, while four land plots in Miyagi Prefecture ranked in the top 10 list of those rated for commercial zones.
The survey indicates that property prices in the Tohoku region are on the recovery track in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, but that soaring land prices could trigger a shortage of land suitable for local municipalities to relocate residential areas to and affect their efforts for recovery.
In June, the Rikuzentakata Municipal Government in Iwate Prefecture decided to relocate three junior high schools that were hit by the tsunami in March last year and were eventually consolidated, to an upland forest and farming area. However, part of the land plot that the city was planning to purchase — about 4,000 square meters — had already been subject to acquisition negotiations between a major home builder and the land owner. According to sources close to the matter, the home builder is offering a purchase price of 10,000 yen per square meter — nearly 10 times the price that the central government pays when buying land to construct roads in mountain areas.
The municipal government was forced to change its relocation plans and subsequently moved the planned construction site to the north. “Land owners may well want to sell their land to those who would purchase it at higher prices, but the government cannot fork out such hefty prices as private companies do,” said Rikuzentakata Vice Mayor Takashi Kubota. An official with the city board of education also expressed concern, saying, “Even though they are private companies, they should take local governments’ plans into consideration when they purchase land.”
Such free acquisition of land by private corporations could also affect moves to relocate residential areas to upland areas. In part of the city of Ofunato, which neighbors Rikuzentakata, candidate sites for the city-led collective relocation to upland areas have already fallen prey to companies’ land acquisition bids.
Because flat land is limited in coastal areas in Iwate Prefecture, the companies’ moves are feared to lead to soaring land prices. While the prefectural government is authorized to set up “monitoring areas,” in which land developers are required to declare beforehand the purpose of use of the land and transaction prices, it is not empowered to abort land purchase contracts. “We have no choice but to call for fair price deals through our public relations office,” said an official with the prefectural government.
Meanwhile, the demand for relocation to inland and upland areas is growing in Miyagi Prefecture. In the city of Ishinomaki, whose commercial land appreciation rate ranked at the top of the country at 11.8 percent, the popularity of the Kokucho district is booming as areas for building condominiums for disaster victims.
A real estate operator in the city testified that the land that remained unsold before the March 2011 quake disaster has since sold out. However, many disaster victims are elderly people, and those who can not afford to buy their own houses have limited options. “The home boom won’t last long,” said the realtor.
The appreciation rate of land prices in the Kokubuncho area in Sendai’s Aoba Ward — a busy shopping and entertainment district in the heart of Sendai — marked 5.4 percent, becoming the eighth highest in the country. “The consumption here has been invigorated thanks to the influx of companies for reconstruction projects,” said a real-estate appraiser.
Tokyo, Aug. 1 (Jiji Press)–The government will start a survey of Fukushima Prefecture evacuees as early as next week in order to reflect their opinions on envisaged “temporary towns” for areas affected by the nuclear crisis, informed sources said Wednesday.
Starting with people from the town of Kawamata and the village of Katsurao in the northeastern prefecture’s Futaba county, the Reconstruction Agency plans to hear opinions from evacuees and get an idea about how many would wish to settle in such temporary towns.
The survey will be conducted before the agency begins full-fledged discussions on ways to support evacuees and the legal issues to be cleared to realize the project.
The temporary town plan is being studied by four towns in the county seriously affected by radioactive fallout from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The survey, to be conducted jointly by the agency and the prefectural and municipal governments, will cover a total of 12 municipalities with designated evacuation zones, including eight Futaba towns and villages. Similar projects may be implemented by more municipalities later.
By Takehiko Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Photographer
reposted from here:
It was 3:30 a.m. Hajime Sato, a 55-year-old fisherman, woke up and rose to his feet. He opened a window and looked out at the sea. “Terrific, the sea is calm today. I can go fishing,” he said.
Sato lives in “Shirahama restoration housing” in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. The house was part of a reconstruction project by Kogakuin University in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, and financed by mainly business donations, to build 10 new homes in the Shirahama area for people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
The houses are on an inland hill 50 meters above sea level, all of them rental units. They are made out of cedar and red pine from the prefecture, and were built by local carpenters and others with the aim of contributing to the revival of the local economy.
There are five people representing four generations in the Sato family–Sato, his wife, his father, his daughter and her 9-year-old daughter. After losing their port-side house in the tsunami, they stayed at an acquaintance’s house. They then moved to temporary housing before relocating to their current place two months ago.
When they lived in temporary housing in an inland area, Sato had to drive 15 minutes to the port for fishing, but sometimes he could not set sail due to stormy weather.
The new house is seven kilometers from the local primary school, and sloping ground around the house makes walking difficult for the elderly. Sato could complain about many things, but he is grateful for his family’s new life.
“I had no idea what a relief it could be to live on a hill without worrying about tsunami,” he said, watching his granddaughter Yumi playing with a puppy they started to keep last month.
Another fisherman, Yoshinobu Sasaki, 49, lives in a house at the same settlement. He can see it on the mountainside even from one kilometer offshore, where he prepares to cultivate oysters.
“I can see the ocean from my window. That’s a good thing for fishermen,” Sasaki said with a smile.
Construction of other restoration housing, by municipal governments, has been delayed. Only two of the 11 communities in Kitakamimachi district, which includes Shirahama, have decided on collective relocation sites at higher ground. But the communities will not be able to move to the new sites for at least a year.
In April, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry extended the two-year limit on staying in temporary housing by one year in principle, but there is still no guarantee that new housing will be ready in time.
The ministry says about 110,000 people living in temporary housing away from their hometowns. Only a small minority have managed to return to a normal, quiet daily life. How long will it take for all quake victims to feel relieved at their homes?