A new housing listing service for same-sex couples by SUUMO.

The character of Recruit Sumai Company and its staff at Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2017

SUUMO, a well-known website for housings administrated by Recruit Sumai Company, is to launch a new housing listing service for same- sex couples starting this summer. They will be able to live together in the housings listed on the website.

“There’s been a lot of voices from LGBT people crying for housings that accept same- sex couples. We hope to support the community by introducing LGBT-friendly housing owners to them.” Recruit Sumai Company commented on the new service. The company will start to add lists of LGBT-friendly housings to their current search engine from next month. By the time this summer comes, LGBT people will be able to filter the search result with conditions like a LGBT-friendly apartment just like when we do it to find an apartment with parking spaces.

According to NHK news, it is very difficult for same-sex couples to find an apartment for them to live together. Many housing owners refuse them.

Yuichiro Suzuki, a gay man living in Nerima District in Tokyo, rented an apartment with his same-sex partner three years ago. He decided to live with his partner to spend more time with his partner and save more money. However, it was not as easy as he thought it was.

Many real estate agencies rejected them because they are not “a real family.” They were not even allowed to see a room. The real estate agencies regarded Mr.Suzuki and his partner as “likely to damage their apartment and cause troubles in the neighborhood.” There was a moment where Mr.Suzuki and his partner started to lose hope. It took half a year to finally find an apartment that accepted them.

Through this experience, Mr.Suzuki realized that prejudices against LGBT people are deeply ingrained in real estate agencies in Japan.

“We’ve been told ‘no’ countless times and every time we got rejected, we became hopeless thinking like ‘this is the reality we gotta accept.’ We just want real estate agencies to see us, not our sexuality.” Mr.Suzuki said.

When we look at opinion surveys conducted among real estate agencies in Japan, we can see how deeply discrimination and prejudices toward LGBT people are ingrained in real estate industry in Japan.

A company administrating housing websites conducted a opinion survey on same-sex couples among housing openers. The housing owners were asked whether they accept same- sex couples as residents or not. 47% refused gay couples and 38% refused lesbian couples because they are worried about “troubles and noises,” “how other residents think about same-sex couples,” and “how to interact with LGBT people .”

Prof. Tanamura, an expert in LGBT issues in Japan from Waseda University, pointed out Mr.Suzuki’s case as part o an iceberg.

“Denial of access to housings is a fatal issue facing LGBT community. It is possible for the government to give administrative guidance to the discriminatory real estate agencies that reject LGBT people. The government is also responsible for taking measures to raise awareness of LGBT people and achieve better understanding of them among housing owners and real estate agencies” Prof. Tanamura said.

Recruit Sumai Company has held seminars as part of diversity promotion programs for better understanding of LGBT people since 2015. In addition, the company sponsored a LGBT seminar called “work with Pride” and arranged a venue for the event that year.