Osaka Pref. steps up housing support for foreign workers

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The Osaka Prefectural Housing Corporation and the Osaka Foundation of International Exchange recently signed a partnership agreement to provide housing support for foreign nationals in Osaka Prefecture. (The Japan Times/ANN)
The Osaka Prefectural Housing Corporation and the Osaka Foundation of International Exchange recently signed a partnership agreement to provide housing support for foreign nationals in Osaka Prefecture. (The Japan Times/ANN)

OSAKA (The Japan News/ANN) – To prepare for an expected influx of foreign workers in Japan, efforts are being stepped up in Osaka Prefecture to cope with one of the major challenges that many foreign residents encounter: finding housing.

The Osaka Prefectural Housing Corporation and the Osaka Foundation of International Exchange recently signed a partnership agreement to provide housing support for foreign nationals in Osaka Prefecture, where the number of foreign residents has continued to rise in recent years, totaling about 230,000 in 2018.

Under the partnership, the housing corporation introduces residential properties, including shared houses, to companies employing foreign nationals or foreign workers who consult with the foundation about housing.

The foundation also provides multilingual support for signing contracts and other moving procedures. This service is offered in 11 languages, such as English, Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The ultimate goal of the partnership is to create inclusive communities where multiple cultures coexist in a harmonious way. To that end, the two entities intend to hold various events to promote mutual understanding of different cultures and lifestyles between Japanese and foreign residents.

“The housing corporation provides tangible support while the foundation provides intangible support. Both aspects are necessary,” Naohiro Tokaji, an executive director of the foundation, told The Japan News. “I hope the foundation will serve as a bridge.”

The move came after the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law came into force in April this year. The revisions allow Japan to take in more foreign workers amid serious labor shortages.

The government expects to accept up to 345,150 foreign workers over a five-year period from this fiscal year. However, preparations to embrace the influx appear to be falling behind under the hastily launched system.

According to a survey released by the Justice Ministry in 2017, 39.3 percent of foreign respondents who looked for housing in the previous five years met with rental refusal because of their nationalities.

The survey also found 41.2 percent of them said their applications were rejected as they did not have Japanese guarantors.

A South American engineer in his 30s, who lives in Osaka city, said he had felt that not having a Japanese national moving in with him or a Japanese guarantor made it harder to get good deals when he conducted his apartment search.

He welcomed increased efforts like the partnership between the housing corporation and foundation.  “I think this is an excellent policy,” he said.

“Luckily I can speak Japanese relatively well, but sometimes the process might be confusing, especially when the real estate agent explains the extensive contract details, and small details might be hard to understand even for people who understand Japanese.”