Temporary Housing Construction – slow going in Japan

Another Post-Quake Controversy: Evacuee Housing; WSJ, May 8. If the problems, and the reasons for them sound familiar, it is because they are some of the same ones we in the U.S. experienced after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

A top advisor to Prime Minister Naoto Kan insisted Sunday that the government could meet his goal of building over 72,000 temporary housing units for evacuees by the end of the August holidays known as obon. But as of May 2, only 3,877 units had been completed. “It depends on whether land can be obtained. The necessary materials have been prepared so I believe we will make it,” said Yoshito Sengoku, a deputy chief cabinet secretary, on a talk show broadcast on NHK Sunday morning.

There have been complaints over the huge shortfall in temporary houses as more than 110,000 victims continue to live in evacuation centers scattered throughout the three most devastated prefectures – Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima – about two months since the tsunami swept inland. Crowded living conditions have led to illnesses among the mostly elderly evacuees, and the lack of privacy has taken a mental toll on survivors.

The delays have resulted from complicating factors like the lack of suitable land, struggles to procure building supplies and labor, and the complexity of funneling the requests between different government levels. But the hardest trial thus far has been to find enough safe construction sites. The tsunami that wiped out whole villages and redrew the coastal shores left towns with limited options on where to build houses to accommodate displaced residents, many of whom prefer to remain close to their hometowns.

According to National Public Radio this morning, an estimated 130,000 people need to be rehoused.  That is an incredible task and no one should underestimate the magnitude of it.  The same report also noted that the Japanese estimate that it will take 3 years to complete debris removal.

1 thought on “Temporary Housing Construction – slow going in Japan

  1. These are the sorts of recovery needs that should pre-planned, in partnership with the federal government, by every county or metro area in the nation. Pre-identifying temp housing sites could easily become a deliverable for local recipients of EMPG or homeland security planning funds. It’s not a guarantee of success, but it’s bound to move the ball further down the field at relatively low cost to any level of government. I personally would find the documented identification of potential temp housing sites to be a more meaningful community preparedness metric than whether 97% or 98% of required staff have taken NIMS training.

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