2024/07/23 22:48

The housing situation in Japan

in the age of multicultural coexistence
- Addressing the problem in the internationalizing Japanese society-
Report on the situation in the Ookubo neighborhood, Shinjuku.

Recently one real estate agency made a major improvement on its’ advertisement posters: where it used to be written “No foreigners allowed” you can now read “Rental inquiries from foreign residents can be considered”.

This improvement in rental regulations it’s not restricted to one particular type of housing, but applies to almost all the different types of housing provided by this real estate agency. Its’ name is “Ethnic town” and it is located in Ookubo, Shinjuku (Ookubo 1-2 chome, Hyakunincho 1-2 chome, Kitashinjuku 1-3 chome).

About 10 years ago, this “No foreigner allowed” policy was common for most Japanese real estate agencies. Let’s see what kind of social context could allow this improvement to happen.

The main factor of this evolution is probably the important increase of the number of foreign residents in the Shinjuku area. Presently ( 2004, Jan.), 29,143 foreigners live in Shinjuku, which represents 10% of the local population, while they were only 14,301 in 1988 during the economic bubble period. And in addition to this doubling of the foreign population (+ 14,842 ), the number of Japanese people living in Shinjuku decreased by 40,514. The structure of the population in the Ookubo neighborhood shows even more diversity, with more than 20% of its inhabitants being foreigners. In Ookubo, the rental demand by foreigners is higher than the demand by Japanese people, and foreigners usually rent apartments for a shorter time that Japanese people. “80% of my clients are foreigners” - says one of the managers of this real estate agency in Ookubo.

Another factor that allowed the improvement of the housing situation for foreigners was the disruption of the balance between supply and demand in the rental market after the economic bubble’s collapse in Japan. The excess of supply over demand lead to changing and improving the rental regulations for foreign residents and made foreigners important clients of Japanese rental businesses. Moreover, the upgrade of old wooden houses into modern apartments and the rejuvenation of the owners of real estate agencies (their change from owners/founders of the business to managers) contributed to the improvement of the rental regulations for foreigners and allowed the rental business in Japan to adapt to this era of multicultural coexistence.

By loosening the regulations concerning foreigners and interacting with them as potential clients, Japanese real estate agencies could realize the groundlessness of their concerns towards foreigners and thus became more flexible and open-minded, which helped to solve a lot of problems. Now most of the real estate agencies in Shinjuku think of changes in thesocial and business environments as a good business opportunity and some of these agencies even started to recruit foreign staff.

The demographic aging of the Japanese society raises the problem of securing new sources of manpower for the future. The boosting of employment opportunities for foreigners is considered to be one of the possible solutions for this problem. In this context, the increase of the foreign population and the growth of the foreign neighborhoods appear to be natural processes.
The Ookubo area, used as an example in this article, is located next to Kabukicho, one of the biggest shopping and entertainment areas in Japan, which has an increasing need of foreign manpower. This makes Ookubo a convenient place to live and one can assume it is the main reason of the increase of its foreign population.

Hagino Masao, Ichii Co, President, Japan Rental Management Association, Chairman of International Exchange Committee