Permanent Housing and Community Development

The number of suicides is still on the increase in the post-disaster public housing. The public housing, which should serve as a permanent place for victims to live is a good shelter from the severe natural environment, it does not however help their mental rehabilitation. A local community supported by a neighborhood caring system of "medicine, employment and living" had been the living and social foundation for the elderly and the social handicapped. It was the very reason for the people's desire to go back to their original living places. The possibility of this desire to be realized had been their hope to live for.

Housing measures included the provision of collective housing and group homes with the aim of community creation. Its political meaning was great but the amount of housing was not sufficient. To make it more effective in the inner city area, more housing of that kind should be supplied, and the common area maintenance charge should be lowered. It should also be considered that the housing be placed side by side to cultural facilities and a home for the aged. A rapport center is also necessary in existing public housing for residents.

Post-Disaster Housing -- Not as a Mere Building

Many of disaster-affected people had been looking forward to moving into public housing in the hope of securing a place to live permanently. Occupants were by and large satisfied with the newly built, well-equipped and structurally sound housing. The rent was lowered by the introduction of a subsidy system of, in the lowest cases, 6,000 yen. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the residents, many of whom were the elderly people, had little acquaintances there and they had to live in loneliness and solitude.

According to research on post-disaster public housing dwellers, the percentage of those who had had good communication with their neighbors before the earthquake was more than 50%. The percentage decreased to 12% for those who had communication with neighbors in the public housing. Furthermore, the percentage of those who just exchange greetings or had almost no communication with the neighbors increased from 20% for the pre-disaster period to 60% in the public housing. Such a tendency was also seen in the relationship with friends and relatives. As a result, the percentage of those who enjoy keeping company with others decreased and that of those who complain about the loneliness increased by eight times. Though residents are content with the building from the material point of view, their feeling of satisfaction had deteriorated from the pre-disaster period, or even from the time right after moving into the housing.

Housing is not merely a building but a container for a whole human life. Relationships with others in the community are indispensable. Even if a large quantity of housing was urgently in need, it cannot be called a genuine restoration if the original communities from the pre-disaster period have collapsed.




(KURODA Tatsuo / SHIOZAKI Yoshimitsu)