According to The Nikkei Asian Review, Japan's largest railway operator, East Japan Railway, or JR East, plans to start operating shared residences for foreign students as part of a project to make the most of unused properties, and in line with the government's target of having 300,000 foreign students in the country by around 2020.
The company is in the process of converting vast tracts of company-owned land, including former railway yards, power stations and employee housing, into new income-earning business lines, including retail space, hotels and bicycle parking.
One promising model for converting idle property at low cost is by turning old employee housing into rental apartments. The company has set its sights on an anticipated influx of foreign students looking for clean, affordable accommodations.
The first shared house for foreign students is set to open in spring next year about an eight-minute walk from Tokyo's Higashi-Koganei Station, about 20 minutes by train from Shinjuku on the JR East Chuo Line.
The three-story, 37-year-old building was formerly used by JR East employees. After renovations are complete, the premises will have total floor space of about 1,000 sq. meters, 70 private rooms, a shared kitchen, bathrooms and common areas.
The location will be managed by JR East Urban Development, a subsidiary of the railway company. Day-to-day operations, including selection of residents, will be outsourced to JSB, a Kyoto-based specialist in rental homes for foreign students.
The team began accepting applications for residents in mid-December. Monthly rent will be around 60,000 yen ($US 532), including administrative fees. In addition to foreign students, Japanese students and university employees are eligible to live in the complex.
JR East plans to open several more residences in next spring, including an apartment building in Tokyo's Mitaka city with a nursery school onsite. With a growing number of working women in Japan, the shortage of nursery schools has become a problem.
Another location to be opened in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, will serve as a multigenerational complex. In addition to rental apartments, the site will include elder-care facilities.
JR East plans to open more rental facilities with a goal of operating 3,000 units by the year through March 2027.
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