Off-base housing policy in Japan gets mixed reviews from local residents
July 28, 2009
A Pacific Air Force Command move to curtail the number of servicemembers living off base in Japan is a mixed blessing for Japanese.
Okinawa housing agents are looking at the housing policy with economic trepidation, while city officials say it will help better relations by cutting down servicemember-related nuisances in their communities.
"Rental income from housing units on Okinawa runs about 8 billion yen per year (about $80 million)," said Yasuhiko Okae, former chairman of Okinawa Real Estate Federation.
The U.S. military pays rent as well as utilities for off-base servicemembers.
Currently, about 4,000 off-base units are rented to Okinawa-based servicemembers. Okae said the policy could cut that number down to 1,000.
Mayor Masaharu Noguni of Chatan, adjacent to Kadena Air Base and Marine Corps camps Foster and Lester, said he welcomes the new policy on Okinawa but wishes it would be directed at single servicemembers instead of families.
"Problematic behaviors" by Americans living in his community are most often by unmarried servicemembers, he said.
"In many cases, parties they hold on weekends go wild, causing great nuisance to the neighborhood," Noguni said. "On the other hand people with families generally keep on good terms with their neighbors.
Shoji Matsuda, chief of Sunabe community board in Chatan also welcomed the new policy.
"Our concerns reached a climax when two large condos with 470 units were built on the waterfront," he said. "If the condos were filled, the number of Americans would easily outnumber local residents."
Because of the language barrier, communication between local residents and Americans is strained, he said.
"When I see children zipping through a narrow road on skateboards, there is no way for me to stop them with my broken English," he said. "They won’t listen to me."