Tokyo might be well known as one of the world’s busiest cities, but you don’t have to travel far before the streets really start to empty out.
In fact, there are so many empty homes in the country that many are being given away virtually for free.
The most recent survey of Japanese homes conducted by the country’s Housing and Land Survey in 2018 found that there were more than 8.49 million houses lying vacant in provinces across the country. That’s roughly 13% of the country’s total housing stock.
Known as ‘akiya’, these houses are often in smaller towns and villages, and were either left empty after their previous owners passed away or abandoned by the growing number of families relocating to bigger cities.
Regardless of the reason, the number of these homes has shot up by 3.2% in just five years, creating a real problem for local authorities, some of whom are worried they could end up leading to accidental ghost towns if the growth continues. The report found that in some prefectures as many as 18% of houses lay empty.
According to Insider, in a bid to encourage people to buy up empty houses, local governments have created websites known as ‘akiya banks’, where a quick browse shows some of the houses are being listed for as little as 50,000 yen (£350).
One suburb near Tokyo has taken things even further, with the town of Okutama handed some of its older buildings over to new owners for free, allowing the new residents to turn them into workshops and businesses.
Speaking to Nikkei, an Okutama government official said:
The program not only helps the old owners, who were struggling to utilise the properties and pay taxes, but also for the town by reducing the number of abandoned buildings that could collapse or otherwise pose risks in the future.
Other places have taken a different approach, by offering grants or subsidies for Japanese citizens who move into their empty buildings. In Mikasa, Hokkaido prefecture, subsidies for home purchases – as well as childcare – resulted in an 11% decrease in the number of empty homes in the city, while Daisen, Tottori prefecture, recorded a 7.9% decrease after it began offering 2 million yen (£12,844) grants to home renovators.
There are often catches, with many of the low prices only available to Japanese residents, especially those with young families. But the country isn’t the only place where you can get on the property ladder at a surprisingly low cost.
Insider reports that there are thousands of cities across the US offering incentives and free land to get people to move there, and if Europe is more your style, the Italian town of Cinquefrondi made headlines last year after announcing it was giving away homes for just €1.
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