Housing in Japan toward a Super-ageing Society: How Far Have We Accomplished and What Remains to Be Done?

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Satoshi Kose

Abstract: Japan started policy preparation to cope with its ageing in mid-1980s when alarming forecast told that a quarter of population would be 65 and over in 2030. Housing policy was no exception, and the author was involved in the development of dwelling design guidelines for an ageing society (not for aged persons) at a research institute. A proposal of design guidelines was drafted in 1991/92, which included three essential requirements: elimination of unnecessary step differences; installation of hand/grab rails for securing stability; and widening of corridors/doors for temporary use of an indoor wheelchair. The application of guidelines started in the early 1990s, and the government introduced a policy to make the design recommendation to work – extra subsidies for housing mortgages in 1996 if the dwelling design was prepared for the ageing. Although the scheme was terminated in about ten years, major housing providers were persuaded to abide by the requirements since they were fairly easy to follow for new construction compared to other requirements. Afterwards, similar policy measures were introduced intermittently to give incentives for new housing construction (but difficult to modify after the dwellings were once completed). An optimistic forecast was that existing housing will be demolished and replaced at a speed of one million dwelling units per year. The reality was that roughly only half a million were demolished every year, the other half survived with poorer quality in many aspects, and they tended to accommodate graying frail seniors – newly constructed ones were mostly occupied by younger generations. As of 2022, people aged 65 and over is nearly 30% of total population, but housing survey conducted in 2018 suggests that about 42.4 %% of seniors live in dwellings complying at least one of three key requirements. However, only about 8.8 % of seniors live in dwellings that meet all three requirements, suggesting that the situation is less than satisfactory.Will Japan need another 25 years to eliminate the mismatch between the ageing/aged residents and design? My reference to 25 years is that almost all Japanese baby-boomer generation, i.e., those who were born between 1947-1950, will have passed away by that time, and quite a large portion of sub-standard dwellings would have been demolished as well due to deterioration.

Keywords: housing, ageing, design guidelines, policy

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1003340

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