Some basic stats as of 2003: There were 47 million housing units in Japan, of which 28 million (61%) were owned and 17 million (37%) were rented. Twelve percent of the rental units, or about 2.89 million, were public housing. The amount of rent charged in these public housing units is determined by income. As mentioned below several times, the recession has forced local governments to reassess the criteria for public housing applications in order to make it “fairer.” According to an Asahi Shimbun survey, 40% of local governments are planning to lower the maximum income ceiling for being accepted into public housing from ¥200,000 a month to ¥158,000 a month.
In addition, the “income divisions” will be changed to reflect new rental fees. Obviously, with the ceiling being lowered, many families currently living in public housing will no longer qualify. These families will be “obliged” to “make an effort” to leave their housing within five years. If they don’t leave, then the pertinent authority will “gradually” increase their rental fees until they match local market values. Theoretically, a family that makes more than the ceiling can still live in their public housing unit for six or seven years paying fairly cheap rents.
Though local government build and operate public housing, the Ministry of Land oversees it all, and the ministry estimates that about 14% of public housing tenants now make more than the ceiling. The problem is that demand is going up too quickly for these new criteria to have any real effect. And in Tokyo, at least, there are no plans to build new public housing. Last Nov. in Hiroshima there were 23 applicants for every vacant public housing unit. In Feb. the number rose to 27 applicants. The number in Tokyo is 35.