Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

Rise in number of empty houses a growing problem for Tokyo

60 Comments

Over 100,000 houses in central Tokyo currently sit empty, a 40% increase over the previous decade. Many are in decrepit condition, causing problems for neighbors and city administrators alike.

The details of this program, originally broadcast Jan 22 on NHK, appear in Takarajima (April).

The reporters visited one such house, occupying some 60 tsubo of land (about 220 square meters) in a quiet neighborhood in Suginami Ward. Its shutters were closed and dead leaves were piled up so high its doorknob was no longer visible.

"The wall around the house is crumbling, and if you give it a push, pieces fall off. I suppose if left that way long enough, it will eventually topple over," said a concerned neighbor.

"I've seen suspicious people climbing over the wall. That's worrisome," remarked another.

"I worry most of all that someone might flick a cigarette butt into those piles of leaves, and the whole place would go up in flames," fretted a third.

Actually, Takarajima notes, ample cause exists for such concerns. Last year in Tokyo's Minato Ward, 13 homes and shops were destroyed in a fire that occurred when an empty residence was torched by a suspected arsonist. Just one day before the blaze erupted, a local resident had appealed to the police to boost patrols in the neighborhood.

Such homes often deteriorate into eyesores due to illegal dumping of rubbish. A certain house in Suginami Ward, vacant for over five years, has accumulated piles of refuse, said to be crawling with vermin and producing noxious smells.

"According to the ordinance, the responsibility for management of privately owned property lies with the owner," Ichiro Nakamura, manager of the Environment Department of Suginami Ward, tells the magazine. Nakamura cites the ward's "Safety and Beautification Ordinance" enacted in 2003.

Unfortunately, Suginami's law imposes no penalties on violators. To enter such property without permission from the owner is trespassing. Even the snipping off of an offending tree branch can get someone slapped with a charge of damaging private property.

The local government office and police are left with no recourse except when dealing with a clear violation, such as arson or unlawful entry.

Working from a list of 103 vacant houses, the NHK team set out to trace some of these absentee owners and ask for an explanation. In 46 cases, the owner had passed away and willed the property to their offspring, and of these, 24 had already sold the property to third parties living somewhere else.

Typical excuses given for neglecting the houses included, "It's far away from where I live and I have neither the time nor the money to take care of the place," and "If I were to sell it now, I'd lose money." Yet in 27 of the 103 cases, the vacant owner was registered as an occupant of the house -- even though they clearly were not.

What is causing this emptying out? One factor appears to be that during the period of rapid economic growth in the 1970s, many of what were formerly farms and empty fields in Setagaya and Suginami wards had been subdivided into homes for salarymen. Now 40 years later, the population of elderly over age 65 has tripled, from 6% to 18%.

When, after a two-month hunt, the reporters traced the owner of one house, they were told by her son, "My mother has been sick, and is in the hospital." He added that the house would remain vacant until she could be discharged. "But why has the building been left is such a decrepit state?" they asked. "I have nothing else to tell you," came the reply.

In the meantime, the number of vacant houses in Tokyo continues to increase at the rate of 3,000 units per year.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

60 Comments
Login to comment

Property tax, inheritance tax, and sales tax can be the first three strategic tools. 100,000 houses .... demolition of all them, then building the brand-new resident houses ... More new businesses can benefit from these vacant houses ... those owners of these houses are sleeping ... We may wake them up ...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is Tokyo becoming Asia's Detroit?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Time to change these laws, the comparison to Detroit is a bit too much, but our amigo down in Nagoya does have a point, the more abandoned houses that are left in a decent neighborhood will eventually lead to its decline, get homeless to start camping out in these homes, get druggies to start doing drugs in them etc..who know, junior high school kids with too much time and too much sex on their minds, let alone getting horrible rats, cockroaches etc..maybe Detroit was not such a bad example after all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The statistic has exposed another fact of aging population ...lonely seniors who are not living with relatives not taking care their vacant houses. Not only in Tokyo, but also in other places.

Vacant houses can become dangerous shelters of Unknown Things as Former U.S Minister Rumsfeld reflexed toward Ira War report ...

Happily, Detroit was the result of shrinking auto industries in U.S. as well as no alternative business plans were created and invested by American investors and local government in Detroit. Jobless people have left the city for other places to seek new jobs ...

For daily commuting-time, officers and employees can use at least one hours to two hours both ways. if they can live in affordable houses compared to expensive ones in metro districts, commuters can trade off to live there. The new Tokyo governor may take a new look or reaction to solve this issue ...

One factor appears to be that during the period of rapid economic growth in the 1970s, many of what were formerly farms and empty fields in Setagaya and Suginami wards had been subdivided into homes for salarymen. Now 40 years later, the population of elderly over age 65 has tripled, from 6% to 18%.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If they can sell the property they should do so. This helps them(a profit is a profit) and Tokyo (taxes) financially.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

But who is going to buy a new house in the city center? They will go for an amount only the very same constructors can afford to pay..

Asiantourist, that would only benefit the big corporations and people that is already rich..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If they are not going to use it, I will gladly take one of the places off of their hands! I'll take several! Sell all but one and use the money to build a new place on the best plot of land. Problem solved :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is a massive problem, there are way way more houses & abandoned businesses in rural Japan, I really wished there were some by-laws & they would be enforced, surely most of these places arent paying property taxes so should quickly be auctioned off starting a price of zero so buyers can factor in tearing down what ever decrepid building is sitting on the property, at least then some of these lots might come back to some life.

At the rate this is happening Japans rural landscape WILL become(already is in places) a giant empty disgusting dangerous series of ghost towns/cities.

would be nice to get people who still live in these places to clean them up, some jerk down from me has turned his lot into a car scrap heap & appliances & garbage strewn around, dogs kept in god awful conditions but there is apparently nothing that can be done, absolutely criminal in so many ways, Japan is literally rotting from the inside out bigtime, what a complete waste!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"If they are not going to use it, I will gladly take one of the places off of their hands! I'll take several! Sell all but one and use the money to build a new place on the best plot of land. Problem solved."

That was my point and I should have expanded on it. The house might be worthless, but the land certainly isn't. For the right price an investor would definitely be interested.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"If they are not going to use it, I will gladly take one of the places off of their hands! I'll take several! Sell all but one and use the money to build a new place on the best plot of land. Problem solved"

The problem is that most of these houses (built 20 or 30 years ago) were bought by people taking out loans on the value of the land during the bubble. The house is worth nothing, and the land is worth much less than it was when the house was bought. Selling the house isn't a realistic option, since no one would pay enough to allow the owner to pay off their loan. What good is selling your house when you'll still owe tens of thousands of dollars on property you don't even own anymore? "The right price" would be too high for most people interested in reselling it, and with the market the way it is, selling it for full market value would still take forever.

The idea of buying houses and flipping them doesn't work here. The industry has conditioned people into buying cookie-cutter houses that fall apart after twenty years, then the owner tears it down and builds a new one, if they can afford it. No one wants to buy a used house, instead, the old house gets torn down and a new house gets built. No one would want a refurbished house in Setagaya, they'd rather have a new one. The land prices being so ridiculous these days, they'd be more likely to buy outside of Tokyo.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I that the prefecture where I live the fire inspector comes around periodically to inspect the fire extinguishers and make sure they haven't expired. Sure he asks to come in, but all that would be needed in Tokyo was for the government to pass a law saying that if its clear that the property is a fire hazard, e.g. piles of flammible materials outside, then that would be enough to fine the owner. Enough fines and eventually it would be worthwhile to clean up the property or sell it at a loss.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tear them down and rent the land out for healthy gardens to locals.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes it seems to be a real bad habit to let stuff abandon and just let it rot around here like a fool! What too lazy to build something better in their place, or knock em down and build a nice park in their place and yes even healthy gardens that the locals can make income from.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Doing anything about those abandoned houses would involve work, which is something that Japanese civil servants typically go to extraordinary lengths to avoid. So they just sit there, as fire hazards and/or nuisances, and the public be damned.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Like I said they just let it sit there and rot away! Lazy, chintsy and kechi It`s a shame Something better could easily replace such a thing

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't know anything about Japanese laws, but is it illegal for houses such as these to be rented out ? Say, you rent it out for 3 or 4 man yen, doesn't that solve a lot of problems here ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is what it is. It's still private property and government should have no business sniffing around.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's still private property and government should have no business sniffing around.

This is not somebody's ranch we are talking about. Try living a few feet away from one (preferably downwind) and try saying that again.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

nisegaijin. When we decide to turn to anarchy we will let you know. Until then, these houses exist in organized communities that are put at risk by the inaction and lack of care by the property owners. That makes these properties a community concern and thus a government concern.

But nice try at defining Japan as anarchist. Just not very realistic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Coming up next: New rules to take over unoccupied property and auction it to construction companies for 60 sqm flats in high rises. Do not miss the file at 11!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

wtb edit button.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why people just let things rot instead of actually putting in the money to either renovate or do something good with it! Admit it, they dont want to bother doing the extra work and are just too lazy you know to even care sadly LOL Its inexcusable some parking lots have fading white lines even...Neglect is sure a huge problem here!

At least in some areas of the world, if some place deteriorates usually this is where crime occurs, drugs, gangs hang out, and these areas are just nothing but trouble! But in more highly educated wealthier areas, and with the right leadership they go ahead and knock these awful filthy places down and put something better in their place for the better good!

Don`t be lazy!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just neglect and aloof well guess what it will unfortunately invite nothing but headaches and trouble! People need to learn! Fault the education system for this poor and ill responsibility of people!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The entire country is chock full of old hovels crumbling into the street. They just set cones around the rubble and people walk or drive around. They stay like than until an arsonist burns them down.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why doesnt the lazy owner just sell off his land to someone else if hes too lazy to do anything about it? At the very least, hell make decent money doing so! Or the lazy land owner, who shouldnt be lazy, should make something good out of the land he or she owns or let someone else do something positive to that land!

Funny you brought that up, I know I go to a golf driving range and that place is deteriorating beyond mention but people still hit balls off it like oh well whatever LOL until the place falls down then maybe the owner of that place would take action to renovate the stinkin place LOL

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And well since that driving range has rotted beyond mention, quit going there anymore and luckily found a better place that maintains itself a lot better! The other one is too lazy and chintsy to fix the place or anything sadly so he lost a customer was the result...bummer for him because of his lazyness he will go bankrupt someday probably.

No wonder it`s ugly and depressing around here...too poor or too lazybones to do something about it LOL

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Unbelievable - but according to govt statistics, 25%, that's 1 in 4 of residential houses in Japan are vacant.

A Hollowing Out of society, probably unprecedented in modern non-at-war countries anywhere in the world.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And the low birthrate is very very much to blame for this! Sad!

And if that driving range closes, probably that driving range will just sit there to rot and sadly, so far, no one is willing to do something better in it`s place like a park, a stadium, something instead of letting it rot like a fool LOL

Even on some roads, the white markings etc... on the road need work but thanks to the lazy cats it creates a definite traffic danger of a situation!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"The wall around the house is crumbling"

Houses should have grass and trees and maybe some bushes or hedges around them, not walls.

"I've seen suspicious people climbing over the wall"

No doubt.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And these are places to make money if the land is sold and someone takes the initiative to make something good out of it! Someone has to make the money somewhere! Letting it rot or abandoned won`t make you any money

Donald Trump did it and hes rich Dallas, Texas has done it knocking down the old Texas Stadium and now are building a shopping center, restaurants, condos and apartments. Imagine Dallas leaving abadoned the old stadium LOL I dont think so! Someone`s not gonna sit there and let it go to waste!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mottanai

Should never let anything go to waste!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tear them all down and plant something Tokyo hasn't seen in decades - trees.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

We have a similar problem in my city. Neighbors will often clean up obvious fire hazards and cut the grass to keep up neighborhood appearances, but they do technically violate the law in doing so. (The city is understanding about that, however, if you pre-coordinate the effort.) Here, we can get such places declared nuisances and force a sale ... apparently that isn't a viable option in Tokyo?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

An Audubon Park or a nature preserve would be nice! Balance of green would be a good idea

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The lot beside my place is empty me & the neighbours cut the grass & we park the wifes car there, this year I am going to plant some veggies there that are eaten daily as my veggie plot is about a 10min walk away

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I suppose one thing these houses are not are vacant buildings because the bank has foreclosed on the lenders and evicted them. If a bank took possession it would have the house demolished and the property on the market in nothing flat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

WordStar at 11:44 AM JST - 8th March I suppose one thing these houses are not are vacant buildings because the bank has foreclosed on the lenders and evicted them. If a bank took possession it would have the house demolished and the property on the market in nothing flat.

Banks are in the money business, not the property business. They'd have to pay the legal fees to foreclose, then pay to have the house demolished, then pay again to have an estate agent or someone similar market the property, and then finally write off the remains of the loan at a loss.

That's a lot of paying just to make a slightly smaller loss, and there's always the risk that no-one will want the property, saddling the bank with the rates, insurance and legal liability should anyone injure themselves there or should a fire start there.

This is the reason that the banks don't want these properties, they're simply not worth the fuss and bother.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Banks are in the money business, not the property business.

If you stand outside any branch of the Chuo, Mitsui or Mitsubishi Shintaku Bank (to name three examples) you will see numerous sheets of paper offering condo, single-unit house, residential land and office buildings for sale. That would appear to contradict the above statement.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Where I live there are at least 7 empty houses in my neighborhood. Some of them could be nicer than where I live now if they were fixed up. It's quite a waste.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

wordstar, banks wud only get involved with something they cud actually have a chance at selling, lots with building covered in weeds & falling apart they wont want anything to do with & there any wheres up to a million of these & the number is growing daily

0 ( +0 / -0 )

GW: isn't "cud" something that a cow chews?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

GW - Ever heard of punctuation? Empty houses - yet the city has thousands of homeless people. Something wrong here.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

wordstar, realist,

Sorry guys, I am not too worried about the odd typo, missed comma or spelling everything out all the time for commenting on things, not writing essays or anything here

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What does this have to do with anarchy?

The moment government starts seizing property for how it looks or smells, they will be start seizing it for anything else.

Perhaps you can do is call police that should be able to get a court order to prosecute the owner for violation of community ordinances. But knowing Japanese police, it's unlikely to happen.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So much for "real estate prices always rise'....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Complacency is also the cause of this and just plain ole laziness really! Landlords, owners or what have you who dont want to do the extra work or who dont bother to spend the extra money for a good cause or reason!

Low birthrate is also the leading cause of this

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is really the job of the local governments to deal with these absent houses. -But since they are unwilling to do anything it will come down to the squatters and the occasional cigarette butt torching the place and anyone foolish enough to live next to a derelict property.

Could be used for community gardens until a new non-absentee owner can be found. NYC at one time was full of these derelict properties 1960/70's and many became (and still are) gardens.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In the meantime, the number of vacant houses in Tokyo continues to increase at the rate of 3,000 units per year.

And how many new starter units are bing built per year? Too many ie over supply for declining birth rate. That is why, house prices in Japan, especially the outskirts of Tokyo, will stay flat or continue to go down.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just a matter of having the willpower to turn an eyesore into something amazing! Just spending the money where it counts and realizing the benefits one will receive! Like taking these abandoned homes and turning them into a nice variety of stores, homes, and even a park along with it! Etc... Like build a nice skateboard park A botanical garden or arboretum

That`s all

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In historical cities, there are many unused or inappropriately used houses called akiya in Japanese because of decreasing population. Many of the vacant houses have been their for a long time for future rennovation plans. Many owners of these vacant house sometimes have intentions of reusing these houses, but most of them meet financial problems. There are other houses which are converted into non-living use successfully. In these cases, town manager has helped owner to rent or sell their house. Thus town manager plays an important role in renovation work.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Heartless as it may seem, best for government to take them over through imminent domain as the last resort.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

100,000 empty houses? you know there a lot of people in Tohoku looking for place to live now....I am sure there are tens of thousands more houses vacant around Japan. hmmm, if even 5% of these houses get used for the Tsunami homeless if only temporarily it would make a massive difference. Will it ever happen? no, the sympathy for Tohoku will likely turn to the usual indifference in a few weeks and they will be left to get on with it. hope I am wrong.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Man aint that the truth! Like I said should really make the best out of this instead of just letting it sit there like an eyesore that it is!

Also, its time to make more babies...tired of the fact theres so few children out there, it`s so sad man! Enough of the BS for real!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

how can you people still be living in Tokyo. rent and tax is just super ass expensive. i moved out just after 2 yeas (several years ago). who in there right mind would spend 400,000-800,000 yen a month for a 1 room, 1 small living room, and 1 small bathroom.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ihimeijapan4009.

The people that pay those rent-prices are either rich or they are paid by their companies.

Normal rent prices are waaayy lower. I am paying 62.000Yen a month for 2 DK(4.5 and 6 Tatami + separate bathroom and toilet).

Average 3LDK apartment can go for around 120.000Yen if you shop around a bit.

Sounds like you got taken.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Over 100,000 empty houses in Tokyo.

Over 400,000 homeless people in Tohoku.

Maybe some temporary socialist programme could be drawn up...?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why exactly are they vacant if the housing prices of Tokyo are skyrocketing? Isn't a larger supply supposed to equal lower prices? Something is not adding up... If the pop is decline then some aspects of the cost of living should be dropping dramatically... so what's preventing these housing units from being used?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Could have something to do with the ridiculously high rental prices in Tokyo. For $700 a month in Yamaguchi, I have a clean and quiet neighborhood, a large house, a large garden and very low crime rate. For the same price in Shinjuku, my friend has a room that if you hold a golf club out straight and try to move in a circle, you hit every wall. WTF is up with that?!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You live at any major downtown part of any city like London, New York expect to pay higher Duh, and that wealthier people can live there! If you have a better job and make better money you can live anywhere you want! Geeze you people have such phobia and being such a wuss over anything expensive LOL If you dont have the money of course you cant afford it.

Those property owners I said are lazy plain and simple! Shame on them and shame on the people who don`t take action to do something about it!

Also look at the fact that some developer should give the area a good face lift Dallas, Texas does this well and realizes that turning an eyesore into something cool can be done for sure!

Dallas, Texas West Village and Uptown have been redeveloped, same goes for Shanghais Pudong district and Seouls Songdo area!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yeah if you can afford why you have to grouch? You get what you pay for! If you cant afford thats sorry for you then, someone else can sure afford it in place of you! It`s a highly competitive society!

The difference between being able to get a deluxe penthouse, a middle class type home or a tiny aluminum dilapidated shack! Difference between Bill Gates, a doctor, and a person managing Mcdonalds. Come on its not rocket science cause we live in a world with a major gaps in wealth between rich, middle class and poor!

Downtown will naturally be more expensive than the countryside DUH, that goes for any major city in this world!

Also leaving homes empty is just plain wasteful! Use it or lose it they say!

One way to use this you can use this area for solar generation!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites