As BC Wood members and their Japanese partners have been asking me for updates on the status of their proposals for the temporary housing projects, I have been working with the Canadian Embassy to get clarification from MLIT. Yesterday MLIT issued an update through their website which can be viewed at the following links.
In summary, the announcement states that one overseas company was awarded a contract by Iwate Prefecture, while Fukushima has was able to meet all their needs through local suppliers. Neither prefecture has any intention to place further orders. Miyagi Prefecture is said to be still considering overseas proposals.
I also learned from the Embassy that the total number of temporary housing units required has been reduced from 72,000 to about 52,000. We can assume that some of the reasons for this include the fact that the original numbers were over-estimated and that as it has been very difficult to find suitable land local governments have been moving more people into existing accommodations such as rental units.
The significance of this reduced figure is that it is well under the domestic supply capacity of 62,000 units. This of course means that there is no longer any great urgency to import units that will displace local production and thus local employment. With their economies significantly impacted by the triple disasters, it is easy to understand why the three prefectures would prefer to focus on sourcing locally. For this reason, I am not optimistic about Canadian companies being able to secure any of the remaining contracts with Miyagi Prefecture. However, I will continue following up on the situation in Miyagi.
I know that this announcement will come as a disappointment to the many Japanese and Canadian companies which were hoping to come to the aid of the people in the Tohoku region by supplying high-quality temporary housing units from Canada. However, as this part of Japan progresses from the current stage of housing the homeless to actual large scale reconstruction, there will be even greater opportunities to offer assistance. Hopefully we will be able to work together then to help build a bright future for these people who have suffered so much.