Fukushima to admit evacuees into public housing even after lifting of evacuation orders

The Fukushima prefectural government is set to give priority to evacuees from the 2011 nuclear accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant in accepting applications for occupancy in vacant public housing units after the lifting of evacuation orders that disqualifies them from such residency. The relief measure will be taken in favor of evacuee families facing difficulty with permanent returns to their homes despite the removal of evacuation zones due to their current working and schooling commitments. It will be put into effect in fiscal 2018 when temporary housing and other free accommodation programs for evacuees are due to be terminated. Under the Act on Special Measures for Fukushima Reconstruction and Revitalization, public housing for victims of the nuclear disaster is intended to form a living base for long-term evacuees and, once evacuation orders are lifted, they are barred from applying for public housing occupancy. But evacuees have called for a review of these provisions. Some complain that they have lives established in their current places of abode and removal of an evacuation order does not mean they can immediately return home permanently. Others say they need temporary accommodation until they can return home. In response to these complaints, the local government will accept evacuees on a priority basis from areas where evacuation orders have been removed, if there are empty units at public housing for disaster victims. This measure becomes possible by regarding such public housing as ordinary prefecture-run residences, according to prefectural officials. It will become effective in and after the end of March 2018 when 4,890 public housing units are to be completed and free accommodation programs comprising temporary and leased housing come to an end. (Translated by Kyodo News)