Nate Berg is a freelance journalist covering cities, architecture, design, and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, National Public Radio, Wired, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, 99% Invisible and many others. He is a former staff writer at the website now known as CityLab and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen. He is based in Los Angeles.
Japan's housing market is facing unique challenges. An aging population has left the country with a glut of vacant homes. Land and home prices are rising in its major cities, creating a need for policies to encourage more affordable urban housing. Homes in Japan are essentially disposable, losing all their value within 15 years, which some economists call a missed opportunity to use housing as a source of wealth creation and economic stability. Certain policies – like how much buildable square footage is allowed on land plots – have exacerbated some of these housing issues, but they are beginning to change. If Japan is to alter the economics of its housing market, its housing industry will need to develop durable, affordable housing that can retain its value. Conveniently, Japan is uncommonly qualified to address these issues. Through pre-fabrication, automated carpentry and construction robotics, Japan's housing industry is the world's most technologically advanced and can literally build the solutions to its housing affordability and durability problems. Through this fellowship, I will tour the country's major and minor housing manufacturers to see how technology is revolutionizing design and construction, visit cities where new policies are attempting to address housing imbalances, and meet architects designing longer lasting buildings. By reporting on these topics, I will show how Japan's housing industry offers an alternative to today's expensive and vacancy-riddled market, and how it can provide affordable housing in Japan and around the world.