There are over 8 million abandoned homes in Japanese suburbs, according to The Japan Times.
If you are a struggling American millennial homebuyer: you could theoretically move to Japan because the sushi’s fresh, cost of living is low, and the government is giving away free homes.
What is driving the government to give away these homes? Well, there is a massive housing glut.
In part, it has to do with Japan’s aging population – responsible for the high number of abandoned houses across the country. Japan has a major demographic problem, which means there are too few first time home buyers.
According to the World Bank Group, the country’s population declined by -0.2% in 2017 alone, while China and the US barely grew .60% and .70% respectively. Back in 2010, Japan had 1.3 million more people than today.
The Japan Times said an increasing number of abandoned properties are being listed on online databases known as “akiya banks”—“akiya” translating to “vacant house” — with tens of thousands of homes being offered at a massive discount. Prices on one particular database range from 30 million yen ($266,800), while many other properties are listed under “gratis transfer” for the sum of literally zero yen.
This is all part of a government scheme to counter the country’s unprecedented housing crisis.
A 2013 government report revealed that more than eight million abandoned homes were spread across Japan, with many of them located in rural regions. Nearly 25% have been deserted indefinitely, neither for sale nor rent.
In Tokyo, where 70% of the people live in apartments, about 10% of homes are dormant, a ratio higher than in cities like New York, London, and Paris.
And that figure is expected to surge in 2020 as deaths outpace births in a mature society where more than 25% of the population is 65 or order.
Nomura Research Institute forecasts the number of abandoned homes could grow to 21.7 million by 2033, or about 33% of all homes in Japan.
Meanwhile, the population peaked a decade ago, forecasted to plunge 30% by 2065, creating an even more profound crisis in the decades to come.
“There is no single answer to the problem,” said Wataru Sakakibara, a senior consultant at NRI who led the think tank’s study.
He said the government had led several measures to tackle the phenomena, including subsidies for owners willing to dismantle decaying homes.
“But tearing down homes is costly, and a decades-old tax break that promotes construction by setting property tax on vacant lots at six times the level of those with buildings discourages demolition. Meanwhile, housing starts reached 967,200 in 2016, a 6.4 percent increase from the previous year,” said The Japan Times.
“If this continues, at some point it may be necessary to consider limiting new construction. But that would have a substantial impact on the economy,” Sakakibara said.
While the Japanese government is willing to give anyone a free home, the American millennial across the Pacific Ocean is dealing with quite the opposite: housing shortages and an affordability crisis. So if you want a free home, pack your bags and head to Japan.