With a mission of developing the building and housing industry internationally

About the North America and Oceania Committee's activities and the resolution as the IHA Chair

Tsutomu ItoSecretary, International Affairs

Tsutomu Ito
Interview date: September 28, 2022

The role of the JIBH North America and Oceania Committee
The North America and Oceania Committee, one of the three committees run by JIBH, shares and discusses housing issues and concerns faced by member countries of the International Housing Association (IHA) around the world through participation in the IHA, for which the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) serves as the Secretariat. On the other hand, JIBH concluded the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Association with the Housing Industry Association Limited of Australia (HIA) and the North America and Oceania Committee share information with each other, such as challenges and new technologies. By having this committee’s activities abovementioned with these two associations, JIBH aims to develop the building and housing industry internationally.
Before JIBH was established, I was involved in exchanges with the IHA and HIA as a general manager of the Japan Federation of Housing Organizations (JUDANREN), which was the starting point of how I came to my current position. Subsequently, JIBH was established in 2018 as an organization that integrates international exchanges related to the housing industry as much as possible, and I took over the participation in the IHA and exchange with HIA from JUDANREN as they were, which I had been in charge of until then; thus I was entrusted with the secretariat of the North America and Oceania Committee. I was seconded from YKK AP Inc., an architectural product manufacturer, and needed to acquire expertise in the housing industry. While the majority of JIBH staff were seconded from the housing manufacturers, I was groping yet working hard to see how far I could go in my efforts as a seconded staff from an architectural product manufacturer.

After the chairmanship of the IHA
who confronts the world’s housing problem
The International Housing Association (IHA) is an international organization that was established in 1984, with 16 member organizations from 14 countries as of September 2022. Including both developing and developed countries, each country has shared and discussed a lot of information and issues in the IHA regarding housing and housing construction in their own country; utilized those results such as making policy recommendations to the government.
Interacting with the national housing associations worldwide leads me to many new surprises and discoveries, not only by sharing common challenges but by experiencing different cultures and sense of values. For example, many countries are currently promoting Digital Transformation (DX) in construction. However, some of these countries view severe on the initial costs of DX and do not see any advantages in its implementation. Meanwhile, although the housing stock in Japan exceeds the number of households and satisfies in quantity, the increasing number of abandoned vacant houses that couldn’t find new tenants has become an issue due to various reasons such as housing performance and convenience. I assume this situation is difficult to understand in countries with severe housing shortages.
This February, I became the first IHA member from Asia to become the chair of the IHA. The first Interim Meeting after I assumed the chairmanship was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At the IHA General Meeting, the latest activities of the seven working groups are reported and discussed. I realized that I still needed much improvement because I somehow got through some of each country’s discussions by commenting based on my experience. Take the Housing Affordability Working Group as an example; unlike foreign countries that share their opinions where related organizations and associations take the lead in developing and operating their own country’s housing support, Japan’s circumstances are somewhat different. I can only share measures and initiatives initially implemented by the Japanese government and municipalities; thus, it’s hard to be on the same wavelength in some aspects. I will apply myself to become competent with all seven working groups and be able to comment on the various opinions of each country get with the support from the NAHB, which serves as the IHA Secretariat.
In the near future, I will work to encourage more countries to join the IHA and boost exchanges with related organizations and entities. At the same time, as the first IHA Chair from Asia, I’d like to raise issues and spread themes specific to Japan actively.

Commemorative photo with conference participants
at the IHA Interim Meeting in Malaysia in September 2022

Aiming further development by promoting technical exchanges and lobbying foreign governments

As for the Housing Industry Association Limited of Australia (HIA), JIBH and HIA will host and dispatch delegations as part of our mutual cooperation based on the MOU we signed in 2019. In 2023, we’re planning to host a delegation from HIA and guide them to visit such as a company that has a series of processes for low- to mid-rise residential housing or ‘apartment’, in which HIA has shown significant interest in terms of housing supply, as well as experimenting with new supply chain management for the sake of domestic timber. And then, afterward, JIBH will send our Japanese delegation to Australia within the fiscal year 2023. I intend to develop the building and housing industry by continuing these visits that will likely benefit each other's housing industries.
In addition to these technical exchanges, we submit requests to other countries’ governments, related organizations/associations, and so on to address other countries’ building and housing industry issues. For example, in a country where a company located its overseas office is imposing restrictions on foreign capital investment, those foreign subsidiaries running a business in such a country may need to pay additional taxes or acquire land at a premium price. To address these issues, we can make strong requests to administrations and related organizations by negotiating as an organization rather than a single company.
As we advance, I will intend to develop the building and housing industry much more internationally by providing know-how and various information that JIBH has accumulated to our member companies, such as problem-solving and administration methods for the sake of overseas business, promoting technical exchanges and outreaching to foreign countries respectively as an association.

Welcoming ceremony for the HIA delegation to Japan held
at HAPPOEN in March 2023 (This photo was taken at a later date)