You may have seen some viral headlines over the years about “free” or cheap abandoned properties available in Japan.
Everyone from CNBC to CNN has talked about it. While Japan’s government is trying to entice new residents with cheap or even free property, it’s not as simple as walking up to an abandoned home and claiming it for yourself.
Realistically speaking, these homes aren’t 100% free. They require renovation, investment and come with strict terms and conditions to make the home livable—the kinds of T&Cs that should make any potential buyer reconsider before affixing their seal or signature.
What are akiya?
In Japanese, 空あき家や (akiya) are houses that are abandoned or unoccupied. Thanks partly to Japan’s aging population and preference for new homes over old ones, there are now simply too many disused homes in the country.
There are 62.4 million homes in Japan. In 2018, Japan’s Housing and Land Survey, which conducts a survey every five years, found a record-high 8.49 million homes to be unoccupied. Even in Tokyo, one in every ten homes is abandoned.
And it’s only going to get worse. According to the Nomura Research Institute, it’s estimated that one-third of all homes in Japan will be vacant or abandoned by 2030.
It’s thought that 900 small towns will no longer exist by 2040, so the government hopes that the akiya (or the Special Measures Act on Promotion of Measures on Vacant Houses—more on that later) will revive these threatened areas.
Why are there so many abandoned houses?
There are numerous and complicated reasons why Japanese homes became vacant. The most obvious is the declining birthrate and an aging population, but another reason is location.
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