The government released its report on land prices as of Jan. 1. Across Japan, while average land prices dropped for four straight years for both residential and commercial areas, the declines were smaller than the previous year. It appears the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake were limited.
However, the situation is completely different in the stricken areas.
In five prefectures along the Pacific Coast from Iwate to Chiba, there were 99 survey spots flooded by the March 11, 2011, tsunami. But the damage was so heavy in 47 of those locations that they were excluded from the survey on the grounds that their prices would be useless as reference materials for land transactions. Also in the remaining 52 locations, the drop was significant, with the greatest decline marking 27 percent from the previous year.
In reconstruction projects, the selling prices of land are determined based on the published land prices. The rebuilding of livelihoods of survivors is greatly affected by the prices of land they own. This is particularly true for those who aim to relocate to higher ground or other places as a group.
The acquisition and development of land for relocation is being undertaken by local governments, which will also buy the disaster-stricken land where people lived before they evacuated. The central government will bear the entire project cost with reconstruction grants and other funds to support local governments. However, evacuees have to put up their own money to buy or borrow land and build houses in relocated places.
At a time when many evacuees don’t even have stable jobs, they have to rely solely on the income from the sale of their land to the local governments.
However, the stricken areas are designated “disaster danger zones,” where construction of residences is banned in principle. With building restrictions in addition to flooding, simply calculated, land prices could plummet.
The land ministry is calling on local governments to take into consideration the restoration of infrastructure and reconstruction plans of stricken areas when they decide purchase prices of such land. Recently, more local governments are proposing to landowners in disaster areas that they will buy their land at about 80 percent of the pre-disaster prices. We urge local governments and real estate appraisers, who actually calculate land prices, to put importance on the viewpoint of supporting disaster survivors.
In areas where residents were instructed to evacuate because of the accident at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, data itself is lacking. This is because an appraisal of land prices was not carried out on survey spots in the no-entry zone within a radius of 20 kilometers from the plant.
The government plans to shortly reorganize evacuation zones into three areas. Of these areas, places where the annual radiation level tops 50 millisieverts are categorized as “areas where homecoming is difficult.” A government panel determined that all property within these areas was completely destroyed, and requested Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay compensation in full at pre-disaster prices.
However, it made no decisions on areas with an annual radiation level of 20 to 50 millisieverts where residence is restricted and areas with a level of 20 millisieverts or less where preparations to lift evacuation orders will be made.
How much have land prices fallen at this moment? What is the outlook for land price recovery that will be brought by the progress of decontamination work? The government needs to present calculation standards on those issues immediately to support the choice of disaster survivors to rebuild their livelihoods.
--The Asahi Shimbun, March 23
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