The Yomiuri ShimbunFUKUSHIMA — Three months have passed since the Fukushima prefectural government stopped providing free housing on March 31 to residents who voluntarily left areas outside the evacuation zone after the 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
More than 2,000 applications have been submitted to a new rental subsidy system started by the prefectural government in place of free housing, to ease this sudden change in evacuees’ lives. This was more than initially predicted, which indicates there are still many voluntary evacuees who require public support.
The number of voluntary evacuees inside and outside the prefecture totals about 12,000 households.
The free housing provision had been promoted under a system in which the prefecture shouldered the rent for those who voluntarily evacuated from areas outside those subject to evacuation orders — up to ¥60,000 per month in principle — using the national budget.
The prefecture ended the rental provision system at the end of fiscal 2016, for reasons including progress in decontamination work. The new system applies to households with a monthly income of ¥214,000 or less, offering up to ¥30,000 per month as a rental subsidy. The subsidy will be reduced to ¥20,000 per month in fiscal 2018.
According to the prefecture, applications for the new system have been accepted since October last year, totaling 874 cases as of the end of March. About 1,200 more came in during the three months from April to June.
The prefecture had estimated 2,000 cases would be approved for the new rental subsidy, but the ultimate number is likely to surpass the initial estimates and applications will likely increase further, according to the prefecture.
However, low-income earners living in public housing, and those who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture to other prefectures and moved again to another prefecture in response to the end of the free housing provision, are disqualified from the new rental subsidy. Therefore, many evacuees have been put in a worse position by the termination of the free housing provision.
Immediately after the nuclear accident, a 62-year-old woman evacuated with her daughter, 22, who was then a high school student, from Fukushima city to Chiba city. Since the end of the free housing provision, she often pays the rent for her public housing later than the due date. Two-thirds of the deposit to rent her public housing remains unpaid, and she has no savings. She manages to make ends meet by receiving her pension benefits early.
In Chiba city, the woman has been teaching painting techniques for porcelain at a class, but her salary — less than ¥100,000 a month — is not enough to support her family.