Housing Reconstruction Program and Public Housing

The housing reconstruction strategy was polarized between direct public measures (provision for evacuation centers, public temporary housing and public reconstruction housing for the target groups of welfare) and the self-reliance policy for the others.

The Three-year Housing Reconstruction Plan, announced in August, 1995, was reviewed in the following year due to the fact that there were so many people hoping to live in public housing, according to the result of the research on temporary housing dwellers. The main point of the review was to increase the number of the public housing units.

The breakdown of the plan was as follows; 70,800 for the target number of public rental housing, 8,200 for private rental housing, and 46,000 for ready-built housing and other types of housing. The amount of the public rental housing included 38,600 for the disaster victims (among which 25,100 were to be newly constructed). The plan showed that more than half of the target number was public housing.

In the earthquake, 74,234 homes were lost in the inner city of Kobe, of which 66,734 were single-family houses, terraced houses, wooden apartments, or shophouses. It is also estimated that 90% of the lost housing was privately owned or rented. Housing reconstruction measures, however, showed that more than half of the target number was to be public rental housing.

The number of applicants for public housing swelled due to various factors. People who used to live in private rental housing hoped to live in public housing because there was no hope for private rental housing of low rent to be reconstructed. The lower income groups who once owned their housing had no choice but to move into public housing because they were unable to reconstruct their home without compensation for individuals. Thus public housing became a strategic means to quickly provide housing in large quantities.

Public Housing-Centered Measures

Other than public housing, individuals were basically expected to be self-reliant to reconstruct their housing. The support for the rebuilding of their houses and rent subsidy for private rental housing dwellers was mainly operated with the use of the reconstruction fund. The measures included the Aid for Housing Purchase (utilized in 11,473 cases, as of the end of 1999), the Loan Interest Subsidy for Private Housing (18,251 cases), the Aid for the Elderly for Housing Reconstruction (9,413 cases), and the Rent Subsidy for Private Rental Housing Tenants (30,851 cases). It is estimated that about 66,000 private houses were reconstructed in quake-hit cities and towns in Hyogo. Less than 40,000 of those are believed to have received some public aid while another 40% were forced to be entirely self-dependent to reconstruct their houses.

Shortage in Public Housing Provision

The public housing-centered housing reconstruction plan did not provide a sufficient amount of housing to meet the demand. The number of the to-be-provided housing was underestimated because; First, needs from those who had lost their homes but were not living in temporary housing were neglected. The result of a questionnaire survey on those people (November, 1995) was taken as the basis of the estimation, though its collection rate was only 10%; Second, the target of the measure was limited to those whose financial condition was low enough to satisfy the usual means test for entering public housing, ignoring the Special Law for Disaster-Affected Urban Areas' Reconstruction which regulates to remove the financial criteria on applicants for post-disaster public housing, and; Third, about 9,300 households in temporary housing who did not respond in the research on temporary housing residents (including those who were unable to respond, being hospitalized, etc.) were excluded from consideration.

Geographical Mismatch of Housing Provision

Most of the post-disaster public housing were built in suburban areas remote from the inner city which was severely hit by the disaster. On the other hand, over 90% of the people who lost their home hoped to live in post-disaster public housing in the district they originally lived. There was a geographic mismatch between the demand and the provision.

The number of housing units planned to be provided was only 60% of the victim's demand in Kobe city as a whole. Of that, 48.3% was in six wards where the damage was especially severe -- in Nagata-ward, one of the six wards, the housing demand was 9,300 units when the planned target number was only 2,300 units. The situation was quite similar in Hyogo and Higashinada wards, as well. In contrast, the amount of housing to be provided was far larger than the demand in the lately developed suburban areas of Tarumi, Kita and Nishi wards.

The geographic mismatch was not quite visible in Kobe city as a whole, since the shortage in supply in the inner city area was covered by the over-supply in the suburb areas.

In the case where the number of applicants was greater than the amount of housing provided applicants were invited to lotteries which were held four times. When the fourth and last chance was over, the number of households who did not win in the lotteries was as many as 18,500. In the suburban areas, on the contrary, the number of applicants was smaller than that of available housing by 3,100. The condition was more severe for applicants who were non-temporary housing dwellers -- only 1,903 out of 13,300 of them won the lotteries (14%) due to the fact that the temporary housing dwellers were given priority.

The absolute shortage of housing provision and its geographical mismatch allowed only one out of four households to come back to their original living areas. As a result, the inner city district quickly hollowed out and the local community collapsed.

(KURODA Tatsuo / SHIOZAKI Yoshimitsu)