Media Mix, Feb. 9, 2020

A care facility for people with disabilities in Hokkaido

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the press’s collateral coverage of the trial of the Sagamihara care home killer. It should be noted that neighborhood resistance to care facilities for people with disabilities is not a rare thing. The Mainichi Shimbun report I cited goes into detail about the history of such resistance. It says that in the 90s there were at least 83 protest campaigns throughout Japan against the construction of care facilities, which was a problem because in most cases such facilities were built wholly or partially with public funds, and in such cases community approval had to be secured before construction could begin. In 1999, Osaka Prefecture took the initiative to pass a law that did away with this requirement, since it was becoming almost impossible to build any care facilities in their jurisdiction. The prefecture essentially said that such a requirement effectively violated the rights of the disabled.

Other localities followed, and in line with this change the public sector retreated from the process of arranging for people with disabilities to stay in such facilities. Formerly, local governments assigned applicants to specific care homes, but now it’s mostly the case that potential residents deal directly with facility operators. That’s because in 2005 the government passed a law to encourage greater independence for people with disabilities, which also paved the way for private sector companies to enter the care home business in a major way. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of private group home operators increased tenfold to more than 750. In addition, group homes have become a fairly popular means for land owners to do something constructive with vacant properties. One public welfare professional told Mainichi that tax and real estate consultants have exacerbated the problem of group home protests by recommending construction of such homes for income and tax purposes without explaining to landlords that there may be neighborhood opposition. Consequently, the landlord builds a facility and hires an operator to run it without consulting neighbors, who learn about it at the last minute and become upset. Lawsuits are often the result. Though the protests are obviously a function of people’s prejudices and unfairly discriminate against people with disabilities, realtors and associated businesses take advantage of the law without addressing these prejudices, which only makes the problem worse.

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