Supporters Network for Community Development "Machizukuri"
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8. Restoration of Condominium

 Of the 70 heavily damaged condominium buildings in Kobe, where much of the earthquake damage was sustained, 12 were repaired (as of April 1998, here and throughout), 54 were to be reconstructed, and the remaining 4 are either under consideration or will not be rebuilt.
 Construction has already started on 51 of the 54 listed for reconstruction, and 30 of these are complete. There are many issues to resolve in reconstructing apartment buildings including the demolition and removal of damaged structures, dealing with the legal procedures involved in divided property ownership such as making the decision to rebuild, raising funds to rebuild, complying with the current Building Standard Law, and choosing a project coordinator. These make it much more difficult to rebuild an condominium building than to rebuild a single-family home.
 Because it considers the reconstruction of condominium buildings to be one of the highest priority in achieving housing recovery, the City of Kobe has been providing various kinds of assistance for these projects since immediately after the earthquake.

Reconstruction Assistance Measures Implemented by the City of Kobe

1) Condominium Repair and Reconstruction Consultation Registration Center

 Over the period of one month starting on February 14, 1995, the first private consultation center, the Condominium Repair and Reconstruction Consultation Registration Center, was established and an aid network of volunteer professionals was begun. The aid network consisted of construction and legal professionals, real estate organizations, and multi-family housing management coordination organizations.

2) Consulting team

 Operating under the Kobe Housing and Machizukuri Center from July 1991, this team offered consultation services on condominium reconstruction. As of February 1998, the group had helped settle 42 cases. Consultants consisted not only of professionals involved in construction, but of lawyers, tax counselors, and real estate surveyors.

3) Construction cost subsidy system

 Forty-six apartment building reconstruction projects utilized the National Subsidy System for Structural Improvement Projects and Urban Housing Improvement Projects, and received construction cost subsidies from the national, prefectural, and municipal governments. An approximate 3,100 housing units that had existed prior to the earthquake in these buildings had become 3, 400 units after reconstruction. The construction cost subsidy provided funds for common hallways and stairwells, as well as parking lot construction, and amounted to approximately 4 million yen per building.

4) Approval of exceptions to the Building Standard Law

 The Building Standard Law has been revised numerous times, but it is the most current version of that law that must be followed when rebuilding or renovating a building. Many of the apartment and condominium buildings that were damaged in the earthquake were quite old, making it impossible to reconstruct them under the current Building Standard Law with the same floor area as the old structure (this is called an existing nonconformity).
 There are, however, some exceptions in the Building Standard Law that can be applied to reconstruction of damaged condominium, as far as the site is large enough and provide enough public open space according to the deregulating system, that would otherwise not be acceptable under the basic law. The Comprehensive Design System is one of these, and the flexible application of the system has been specially implemented in the reconstruction of condominium buildings. There were still 33 existing nonconformity condominium buildings among those that were damaged in the quake, and 25 of these have been rebuilt under special permits.

5) Use of public funds for demolition of damaged structures

 To help people rebuild on their own, the City has used public funds to demolish condemned buildings. Because demolition costs are quite high, this service has contributed greatly to financial plans for reconstructing apartment buildings. However, since this service was only to be provided for three years, some structures that might have been maintained with extensive repair work were demolished prematurely.

Lessons from Condominium Building Reconstruction

 As a result of the support that has been provided for apartment building reconstruction, the majority of these buildings have been rebuilt, but in two or three areas, trials are being held to reach a decision on whether to rebuild. The disadvantages of the Divided Property Rights Law became abundantly clear in the aftermath of the earthquake. The need for earthquake reconstruction, a challenge never before faced, has clearly revealed that changes to the law should be necessary.
 More than a few conflicts broke out among area where neighbors near the reconstructed condominium regard the living environment would be worse because of the reconstruction with bigger height, especially regarding special permits like the Earthquake Restoration Comprehensive Design System that are used to deal with existing nonconformity condominium buildings.
 Since reconstructing a existing nonconformity condominium building is extremely difficult without a special permit, more of them are likely to be demanded in the future. However, it is essential that rules are developed for resolving disputes between the needs of various community residents.
 Consultants and developers are playing a significant role in the current reconstruction process. Some activities that disregard business profits and that are based on workability have been a major force behind getting divided property rights holders to agree on reconstruction or renovation efforts. Surely such activities have been possible due to the special circumstances of earthquake reconstruction. Creating a system for promoting reconstruction activities and determining who should fulfill this role and who should bear the costs during normal reconstruction efforts is an important, but difficult, challenge.
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