Post-disaster Temporary Housing Units in Iwate, Miyagi Prefectures to be Empty by March

All temporary housing units in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures are expected to become vacant by the end of March — 10 years after the massive quake and subsequent tsunami, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

There were 65,483 temporary housing units at the peak in the prefectures, with 167,368 people living in them after the areas were devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

As of the end of November, most of the 218 people currently living in 98 housing units in tsunami-affected areas intend to move to public reconstruction housing and other places.

In Fukushima Prefecture, however, the outlook for emptying temporary housing units remains unclear, with about 1,600 people living in about 900 temporary housing units in and outside the prefecture following the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

There are two main types of temporary housing: prefabricated housing and privately rented housing such as apartments in what is dubbed “minashi kasetsu” or quasi-temporary housing that is rented out by prefectural governments and other organizations. These temporary housing units are provided free of charge to the victims.

According to the Reconstruction Agency, about 320,000 people have moved into a total of about 120,000 units, mainly in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

People are allowed to live in temporary housing units for up to two years in principle, but the period has been extended in the three prefectures, surpassing the five-year period that followed the Great Hanshin Earthquake, where there were 46,617 units at the peak.

The extended period is the result of disaster victims’ economic situation and the prolonged construction work to fill the flooded areas with soil.

According to the Iwate and Miyagi prefectural governments, 70% of people living in temporary housing are planning to move into public reconstruction housing and 30% into their own newly built homes.

In Iwate Prefecture, however, two people in one prefabricated temporary housing unit are refusing to move out. If they do not move out by the deadline set by the court in the civil mediation, the prefecture plans to petition the court to enforce their eviction.

In Fukushima Prefecture, there still are evacuation zones where residents who cannot return home continue to live in temporary housing.

The construction of public reconstruction housing is underway in areas where the evacuation order has been lifted. Yet many residents remain in temporary housing because they say the new environment is not fully equipped for living.

The prefectural government said it plans to promote the construction of medical institutions and commercial facilities.