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A recent off-base construction boom has made homes targeting Americans readily available for occupancy in Misawa, Japan, according to Susumu Kohiruimaki of the Misawa Housing Association.

In three years, the total number of homes for American families in the city has increased by 20 percent, he said.

Presently, there are about 1,000 homes registered as off-base rental homes for Americans in Misawa, and about 400 in Oirase, Kohiruimaki said.

"The boom, however, has slowed down since this year, with a speculation that there would be no further increase in the number of servicemembers at the Air Force base through realignment of U.S. Forces Japan," he said.

Most new arrivals at Misawa have a choice whether to live on or off base, said Elizabeth Perry, chief of base housing management. Only personnel designated "key and essential" must live on base, she said.

Some people choose off-base housing because of amenities such as a covered garage and yards, according to Perry. Others enjoy on-base housing because of convenience, including walking distance from the schools, food courts and recreational activities, and a sense of security.

As part of the off base construction boom, many older homes were replaced with bigger, nicer homes, Kohiruimaki said.

Most new homes are single-story, about 60 tsubo (about 2,150 square feet) in area with a parking space for two cars, he said. Americans prefer single story because of a fear of earthquakes, he added.

Chiyomi Sumida and Jennifer H. Svan contributed to this report.

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