“Japan is giving away their abandoned homes for free!”
Sound familiar? You may have seen these headlines going viral recently. That’s largely thanks to coverage by CNBC and CNN and other popular news sites that reported on how you can now get one of these abandoned houses in Japan for free. You could hardly scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed without someone announcing they’d found their one-way ticket toward home ownership in Japan.
That’s right. You could now buy a house in Japan for ¥0! Why?
Because there are so many of them, thanks in part to Japan’s aging population and preference for new houses over old ones. A Tokyo-based real estate media company, Real Estate Japan, even reported that they received a few inquiries from foreigners about how to nab one of these abandoned homes in the past few months.
Well, here’s some news for you.
These homes aren’t 100 percent free. In fact, they require renovation, investment, and come with strict terms and conditions to make the home livable — the kind of terms and conditions that would make any potential buyer think again because of the price tags that go along with them.
What are ‘akiya’, and why are there so many in Japan?
So how did this abandoned houses thing, become a thing, anyway?
Houses that have become abandoned are referred to as akiya or 空き家 in Japanese. In 2013, just over 8 million out of 60.6 million homes in Japan were considered to be akiya, or vacant, making that one in seven houses that are abandoned. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. That’s a lot, but currently, the estimate of akiya in Japan has risen to exceed 10 million.
By 2033, it’s estimated that 30 percent of all homes will be vacant or abandoned.
In addition, it’s thought that 900 small towns will no longer exist by 2040, so the government hopes that the akiya scheme (or the Special Measures Act on Promotion of Measures on Vacant Houses — more on that later) will act as a last-ditch attempt to revive these threatened areas.
Why are there so many abandoned houses?
There are numerous and complicated reasons why these once memory-filled homes became vacant. The most obvious is the declining birthrate and an aging population, but other reasons aren’t discussed so often.
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