Japan's Vacant Homes Reach Record 9 Million, Doubling Since 1993

Japan's vacant homes reach a record high of 9 million, reflecting demographic shifts and posing challenges. The government aims to address this growing issue through legal revisions.

Muhammad Jawad
New Update
Japan's Vacant Homes Reach Record 9 Million, Doubling Since 1993

Japan's Vacant Homes Reach Record 9 Million, Doubling Since 1993

Japan's vacant homes have reached a record high of 9 million as of October, according to a survey by the country's internal affairs ministry. This figure represents a doubling of vacant homes since 1993 and accounts for 13.8% of all homes in Japan, meaning roughly one in every seven homes is now unoccupied.

The survey found that 42.8% of these vacant homes, or 3.85 million properties, are serving no specific purpose. This category of outright abandoned homes has seen an 80% increase since 2003. The remaining vacant homes include 4.43 million available for rent, 330,000 on the market for sale, and 380,000 categorized as secondary dwellings.

The rising number of vacant homes is largely attributed to Japan's demographic shifts, such as an aging population, declining fertility rates, and migration from rural to urban areas. Many of these properties are left unoccupied due to elderly residents passing away or relocating to assisted living facilities, while others are inherited properties that owners are unable or unwilling to live in, refurbish, or demolish.

Why this matters: The glut of vacant homes in Japan reflects the country's broader demographic and economic challenges, such as rural depopulation and a shrinking real estate market. The issue also raises concerns about the financial burden of maintaining these properties and the potential for them to attract pests and pose safety hazards.

The growth in vacant and abandoned homes is particularly high in rural prefectures with shrinking populations, such as Wakayama and Tokushima, which have the highest percentage of vacant homes at 21.2%. Experts predict that akiya (abandoned homes) could account for more than 30% of all houses in Japan by 2033 if current trends continue.

In December 2023, the Japanese government revised a relevant law to address the growing problem of vacant homes. The revision allows municipal officials to ask owners of abandoned vacant homes to properly manage their properties. "The increase in vacant homes is a deeply rooted problem arising from Japan's aging population and the concentration of people in Tokyo and other large cities," a government official stated, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive approach to tackle the issue.

Key Takeaways

  • Japan's vacant homes reached a record high of 9 million in October.
  • 42.8% of vacant homes, or 3.85 million, serve no specific purpose.
  • Vacant homes are linked to Japan's demographic shifts, like aging population.
  • Rural prefectures have the highest percentage of vacant homes, up to 21.2%.
  • Japan revised a law to allow officials to manage abandoned vacant homes.