Are foreign residents eligible to live in public housing?


photo by hiromitsu morimoto

While the commodity price is hiking around the world, Japan is having rather moderate inflation. Also, overall rent prices in Japan are lower than those in other advanced countries. But in large cities like Tokyo and Osaka, the rent prices are quite high because of the overflowing population. Some people may be struggling to pay rent every month. To rescue people who have difficulty having proper housing, local governments in Japan offer public housing.


About public housing in Japan

In Japan, public housing means rental properties which are run by municipal governments. Normally apartment houses, not single houses, and it is not for everyone. Public housing is for those who have difficulty finding a home because of low income, and there are some conditions set by local governments, such as household income. All governments regularly call for new applications, but tenants are determined by a ballot, so there is no guarantee that you can use public housing even though you meet all the criteria. Foreign residents can apply for public housing if they meet the conditions.

There are many public housings all over Japan, but metropolitan areas are highly competitive and the competitive rates in the twenty-three wards of Tokyo may reach as high as fortyfold. In contrast, there are areas with a competitive rate of less than twofold. Therefore, the probability to get a tenancy in public housing varies depending on the area.


Eligibility requirements of public housing

The requirements and conditions to apply for public housing are different depending on the municipality, but generally, you need to fulfill the following conditions.

  • Household income does not exceed a certain level
  • The applicant has difficulty finding a home
  • The applicant is an adult
  • The applicant resides in/commutes to the municipality where the public housing is located
  • The applicant owes no overdue local taxes
  • None of the household members is a member of an organized crime group
  • None of the household members owes outstanding rents of public housing, shop, parking space, etc.

Before applying for public housing, check eligibility requirements on the website of the local government.


Rents of public housing

Generally, rents of public housing are lower than private rental properties. But how are they determined? The rents of public housing are determined by multiplying 1. Base rent is calculated according to household income and 2. Location factor, 3. Dimension factor, 4. Age factor, and 5. Convenience factor.

1. Base rent

Household income(month)

Base rent



>¥104,000, ≤¥123,000


>¥123,000, ≤¥139,000


>¥139,000, ≤¥158,000


>¥158,000, ≤¥186,000


>\186,000, ≤\214,000


>\214,000, ≤\259,000




*Household income = (Annual income of the household – Total deduction of the household) ÷ 12

2. Location factor: Indicates the benefit of the location of each municipality. The number is allocated between 0.7 – 1.6 by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport according to the situation of land prices in the municipality.
3. Dimension factor: The value appropriate to the floor area of a dedicated area
4. Age factor: The value appropriate to the age of a building
5. Convenience factor: The value determined by the local government according to the convenience (transports, facilities, etc.) of the building

Like this, rents of public housing differ by the income of a tenant, the location, the age of a building, etc., and they are normally half or maybe less than that of the rent prices of other private properties.


How to apply for public housing

A ballot for tenancy is regularly held by each local government: quarterly, most of the time, however, some buildings have a monthly ballot. Application for public housing can be made by the following procedure.

  1. Check requirements and sent an application: submit an application form or apply online
  2. 1st screening (documentary screening): to assess if an applicant fulfills the requirements
  3. Ballot: Applicants who won a seat proceed to the next step
  4. Announcement of tentative winners: the local government will send out a notice of tentative win and notify of 2nd screening
  5. 2nd screening & submission of document: interview by government staff and submission of documents (prepared beforehand)
  6. Announcement of winners & notification
  7. Receipt of a house key
  8. Move into a new home


Fingers crossed!

Public housing is available across Japan. It is normally a lot cheaper than private rental properties in the same areas, having many applications every time local governments announce new vacancies. Public housing is great support for those who are experiencing financial difficulty because of the COVID-19 disaster. Foreign nationals are eligible to apply if they meet the requirements. An application can be made by submitting a form, or some governments accept online applications. Check the local government’s website for detailed requirements and conditions, because you need to meet the requirements and conditions to be eligible to apply for public housing.





あきらことほ Kotoho Akira

Living outside Japan for a good many years, I often rediscover nice little things about this country every time I return here. I would be more than happy if this column may help you find your "nice little things about Japan"!

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