No one home: Japan’s dwindling population means a housing oversupply

The total number of vacant homes in Japan is up to 8.5M
April 29, 2019 11:00AM

Homes in Kanagawa prefecture

Homes in Kanagawa prefecture

Japan’s birthrate was the lowest on record last year, so it’s reasonable to assume there would be more empty houses scattered throughout the country. But a new survey shows the problem is far greater than expected.

Today, the number of vacant homes has jumped to 8.5 million, meaning 1 in 7 homes across the country is empty, Bloomberg reported.

Japan’s inventory of vacant homes increased by around 260,000 since the government’s last twice-a-decade survey of vacancy in 2013, according to the report. That brought the number up to 13.6 percent of all housing in the country.

Around 5 million of Japan’s vacant homes are intended for future sale or rental, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

The phenomenon is a function of a declining population and the continued pace of housing construction. Despite being the world’s third-largest economy, Japan’s population has been shrinking since 2010. The population is also getting older.

The birth rate last year was the lowest since data collection started in 1899. The country’s population, now 127 million, could drop to around 100 million by 2049, according to data cited by NPR.

Many vacant homes are listed at bargain prices — sometimes even offered for free — on websites commonly referred to as “akiya banks,” for the Japanese word for “vacant home.” Many are listed because their aging owners no longer want to worry about upkeep or pay property taxes.

A number of the homes are located in rural areas with few economic opportunities, but some are in vibrant metropolitan areas, including Tokyo. Around 11.1 percent homes are vacant in the Japanese capital city. [Bloomberg] — Dennis Lynch