Project to support 59 municipalities: Okuma town in the news Public corporation to act as agent for real estate deals in evacuated town

The wholly evacuated Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma is poised to beef up support for the use of real estate from fiscal 2018, beginning on April 1, in an attempt timed with accelerating moves to remove an evacuation zone set up after the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. Without any real estate agent available in the deserted town, the municipal office will use “Okuma Town-Building Public Corporation” as a single channel for consultations and referrals regarding land for residential and business use as well as vacant houses and offices, linking owners hoping to rent or sell off their property with their potential users in a smooth fashion. The town, which hosts the crippled plant together with the neighboring town of Futaba, hopes the support will lead to its restoration by spurring permanent returns of evacuated residents and business reconstruction. In Okuma, work to establish a reconstruction hub is making headway, spearheaded by the construction of a new municipal office building in the Ogawara district. The town is seeking to complete the project within fiscal 2019. In November last year, the central government authorized part of a “difficult-to-return” zone in Okuma as one of the “specified reconstruction footholds” in the prefecture. The town is set to promote state-funded decontamination work and infrastructure establishment in the foothold area, about 860 hectares, with a view to elimination of an evacuation order by around the spring of 2022. As real estate agents remain unable to do business in Okuma, the town office sees the need to offer support on real estate utilization in preparation for permanent returns of residents. The planned consultative and referral services will be commissioned to the public corporation, set up in October last year. The corporation will act as a channel for such services, playing matchmaker between landowners or leaseholders desiring to rent or sell land and buildings, and companies hoping to use them for business operations or individuals wishing to live in the town. At present, the corporation is based in the town’s branch office in Aizuwakamatsu city, about 100 kilometers west of Okuma, and has two employees. It is scheduled to hire about four more people and move the base to Okuma’s branch office in Iwaki city, some 40 km to the south of the town, in April. Some evacuated Okuma residents complain it is hard to find the town office’s right contact point as different sections are in charge depending on types of land. The planned switch to one consultation window is expected to improve the convenience of townspeople. Acreage to be covered by the public corporation’s consulting services is about 68 square meters, excluding an area of some 11 sq km to be used as a site for interim storage of contaminated waste. The corporation believes that if the prospect of substantial tracts of land being arranged for rent or sale rises, it will add momentum to the establishment of the reconstruction hub for permanent returns of evacuees. But there are many plots of land not ready for use in the difficult-to-return zone, which needs cleanup work and infrastructure establishment. The town will store information on the intentions of landowners and leaseholders in a database for use as factors to be taken into account in establishing infrastructure. It will use the information to help facilitate smooth land utilization after decontamination is completed by the national government. For inquiries, call 0242-23-7522 until the end of March and 0246-85-5237 from April at "Okuma Town-Building Public Corporation." (Translated by Kyodo News)