Russia Warms to Japanese Wooden Houses

A Japanese company that makes innovative wooden houses is targeting the Russian market. It believes it has found an opening in Kazan, one of the country’s fastest growing cities. Young families are flocking there, drawn to its booming IT sector. There isn’t enough housing, but the Japanese company is betting its special structures can help out.

In June, the company held a ceremony for the opening of a new model home — a Japanese-style wooden house — for the residents of Kazan. Young families looking for a place to live went to get a glimpse of the unusual building.

The house is the work of Iida, a major Japanese homebuilder. It builds houses using a traditional Japanese technique of putting together meticulously processed wood.

Housing demand in Japan has been falling as the country’s population dwindles. That prompted Iida to look to Russia.

“I think there is unlimited demand for detached houses in Russia,” says Iida Vice President Masashi Kanei. “The opportunity here is boundless.”

Young people demanding bigger homes

Soviet-era concrete apartment blocks are common in Russian cities. 31-year-old Mikhail Raletin is planning to move his family to the suburbs. He and his wife had a child last year.

They currently live in a 50 square-meter apartment with one bedroom and a kitchen and dining room. This is the norm for Russian families. “I hope to move to a bigger house as soon as possible,” he says.

The region’s economic growth is spurring demand for relatively spacious houses among young people in Kazan.

The model home attracted 120 families within 3 days of opening. But many were worried about the wooden structure.

“May I ask one question? Wouldn’t it get really cold here in the winter?” says a visitor. Temperatures in the region drop to minus 30 degrees Celsius

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