Goodbye work

A “white paper” recently released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry reported that, according to a survey of Hello Work outlets (i.e., government-run employment offices), since last October approximately 229,000 non-regular workers lost their jobs. The ministry looked at about 125,000 of these cases more closely and found that 3,400 of them also lost their housing as a direct result of their sudden unemployment, which probably indicates that these unfortunate people were kicked out of their residences because those residences was provided by their employers. The report went on to say that these people did not have any money saved, thus further indicating that they are most likely homeless at the moment, unless they had family or friends who will put them up. The longer-term problem of no savings is that without the money for the deposits and key money required to move into a rental property, these people are stuck in a Catch-22 situation. They can’t ask for welfare or apply for unemployment insurance without an address, and they can’t get an address without a job.

Nervous on the block

A survey by the Real Estate Auction Distribution Association has found that the number of homes deisgnated for the auction block by courts throughout Japan has almost doubled in the past year. Housing loan defaults are on the increase, and since it takes up to year from the time a bank begins foreclosure to the time the court allows for bidding on a property, the number of homes on auction will likely continue to increase, perhaps hitting its peak next spring, when loan defaults caused by cancelled or drastically reduced bonuses this past summer will come home to roost, so to speak. Read More

Blacklist blues: update

The blacklist for rental scofflaws that was planned by a number of rental guarantee companies and reported below has apparently been scrapped–for the time being. According to a front page article in today’s Asahi Shimbun, the group of 15 that came up with the blacklist have decided not to go through with it after “thinking more seriously about it.” Also, other guarantee companies who aren’t in the group apparently complained and the land ministry expressed its “concern.” But the main problem seems internal–some of the companies actually want the blacklist to be more draconian while others are caving to outside pressure to just chuck the whole thing. Anyway, the group will continue its discussion of the matter in the fall. In a way, that makes sense. The rental market isn’t very good right now, and such tactics, which are meant to appeal to landlords, seem self-defeating in what is essentially a buyers market.

Living on the edge

condoAn article in Shukan Gendai states that according to the real estate industry about one-fifth of all condominiums throughout Japan “probably” violate current local building codes. The vast majority of these violations are time specific, meaning that they didn’t violate codes when they were built. Laws were changed after they were constructed, and while there is no requirement that the condos have to be rebuilt to adhere to the new codes, the situation is still bothersome for those who live in them. Basically, it makes it even more difficult for the current owners to ever sell them. Read More

Blacklist blues

According to a front page story in today’s Asahi Shimbun, a group of 15 nationwide “yachin hosho kaisha” (rental guarantee companies) have gotten together and at the end of the month will start compiling a blacklist of rent scofflaws. Read More

Where the spike is

The one area of housing that has seen some improvement over the last year or so is apartment for senior citizens. As Japan’s population’s median age continues to increase, there is greater demand for nursing homes. It’s a demand that isn’t being met by the public sector. Private sector nursing homes are very expensive and thus only the well-to-do can afford them. However, housing developers have stepped in and built affordable housing specially designed for older residents.

In fact, the number of apartment units for seniors has actually doubled from a year ago. A registry for this kind of specialized housing started in 2005. By Mar. 2007 the number of units was about 10,000, and increased to 18,800 by Mar. 2008. It now stands at about 36,000 units. According to a Kyodo report, a private research firm says it will likely increase to 73,000 units by Mar. 2014.

Though designed for seniors, there are no regulations restricting their use to seniors. Rent tends to range from ¥100,000 to ¥200,000 a month, which is much lower than monthly charges at private nursing homes.

The way it is

The Asahi Shimbun just published statistics from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications regarding Japanese housing. The ministry surveys the housing situation every five years and found that as of October last year there was a total of 57.59 million residences in Japan, 7.56 million–or 13.1 percent–of which were vacant. Read More

We’re here for you (if you’re a landlord)

Here’s a link to a Japan Times article about a new DVD for foreigners that helps them navigate the rental housing world of Japan. As the piece points out, the DVD is being distributed by the Japan Property Management Association, which means that they are more concerned with what happens after the contract is signed–getting along with neighbors, knowing the customs, etc. These are all important matters, but what’s significant about the release is its timing. With the rental housing market deep in the doldrums more and more realtors and landlords are biting the bullet and soliciting foreigners whom they avoided in the past. Building management companies understand this and are mainly doing this for their customers, not for tenants. As long as foreign tenants know their obligations, there will be less trouble for realtors and landlords. Will somebody in the industry ever produce a DVD for foreigners that informs them of their rights as tenants? That would seem to be against their interests, wouldn’t it?