Housing and Social Change: East-West Perspectives

By Ray Forrest; James Lee | Go to book overview

8

Home-ownership in an unstable world

The case of Japan

Yosuke Hirayama


Introduction

The housing system in Japan has been focused on the expansion of home-ownership. From the end of the Second World War through the 1970s, the inflow of population into urban areas and a rapid increase in the number of households put increasing stress on the demand for housing, which led to an acceleration of housing mass-construction. The macro-economy developed at a striking pace, resulting in an increase in the middle-class whose employment and income were stable. There was a cycle in which the mass-construction of owner-occupied housing stimulated economic growth and this growth, in turn, expanded the acquisition of owner-occupied housing. To own housing was an effective means of acquiring an asset since land and housing prices continuously and rapidly rose. Middle-class family households of 'a couple with child(ren)' formed the social mainstream. That middle-class people had a family, obtained their own house and accumulated an asset was regarded as contributing towards social stability. The conservatives have been in power for most of the post-war period and their housing policy has been concerned with promoting the mass-construction of owner-occupied housing backed by strong connections with the construction industry and private developers.

The housing system which encouraged home-ownership developed under conditions of economic growth, an increase in the middle-class and the dominance of family households in the population. Japan today, however, has entered a period of rapid and profound restructuring, with shifts from a growing to a destabilized economy, from state intervention to a deregulated market, and from a united to a fragmented society.

The condition of the housing system has changed drastically. The 'bubble economy' appeared in the latter half of the 1980s and burst at the beginning of the 1990s. Since the bubble collapsed, there has been a serious and longstanding recession and income and employment have been destabilized. Housing and land

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