Starting in spring, housing assistance for residents of Fukushima Prefecture who evacuated to other prefectures voluntarily due to the 2011 nuclear accident will vary from prefecture to prefecture and certain disparities will occur, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
The Fukushima prefectural government has so far been providing free-of-charge housing unconditionally and uniformly. However, it will terminate the provision at the end of March. Accordingly, 19 other prefectures will terminate their own initiatives to provide evacuees with free housing, while 24 prefectures will continue to provide housing free of charge and other services.
Although nearly six years have passed since the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant accident, many evacuees are still reluctant to return to their homes, and each prefecture that has accepted evacuees is responding to this situation in its own way.
After the accident, the Fukushima prefectural government treated voluntary evacuees — those who evacuated from areas that were not subject to evacuation orders — as equal to those who were instructed by the central government to evacuate. Abiding by the Disaster Relief Law, the prefecture has been shouldering rental fees for apartments or public housing facilities using funds from the state budget and other financial resources. The maximum rent for housing to be provided free of charge to voluntary evacuees is set at ¥60,000 per month in principle.
As of October 2016, the number of voluntary evacuees stood at 10,524 households or 26,601 individuals. Of these, 5,230 households or 13,844 individuals have relocated to areas outside of Fukushima Prefecture. In contrast to those who lived in areas subject to the evacuation order, voluntary evacuees are not eligible for regular compensation payments from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. Therefore, the provision of free housing has been the main pillar of public support for voluntary evacuees.
Fukushima Prefecture decided in June 2015 to stop providing housing free of charge at the end of March 2017, judging that living conditions were changing for the better as the decontamination of residential areas progressed.
However, many evacuees responded to this by complaining that they did not want to be moved from places they were getting accustomed to. Accordingly, 24 prefectural governments other than Fukushima have decided to take the matter into their own hands by applying the law on public housing facilities and preferential measures by ordinances to compile their own budgets to extend the provision of free housing, give priority to evacuees in providing public housing for a fee or take other steps. A total of 3,607 households have evacuated on a voluntary basis to the 24 prefectures.
Several municipalities have also taken steps to provide public housing facilities free of charge.
Hokkaido, to which 229 households have voluntarily evacuated, has decided to extend provision of free housing for a year for 34 households. The prefectural government explained that it wants to help evacuees put their lives back in order by alleviating the concerns they may have about where to live.
Meanwhile, Hyogo Prefecture has decided to discontinue its support for the 44 households it accommodates. The spokesperson for the prefectural government said it would not take steps to keep the evacuees in the prefecture, which would be incompatible with policies of the Fukushima prefectural government aiming to bring them home.
Upon discontinuing the provision of free housing, Fukushima has procured 170 prefectural housing facilities for a fee to be provided preferentially to evacuees. The prefectural government is also planning to pay ¥100,000 to every household that moves back from outside the prefecture. Single-person households will receive ¥50,000. Residents who have evacuated to areas inside the prefecture will also receive a partial payment.