Japan has so many uninhabited houses that it has decided to give them away for free.
Numerous towns are reportedly either offering the homes at zero cost or selling them for next to nothing, as more and more properties are being listed as “unoccupied” across the country, reports the Japan Times.
Interested parties can browse through thousands of homes in relatively good condition on online databases known as “akiya (vacant house) banks.”
A lot of properties are listed as “gratis transfer,” meaning they can be had just by paying a few taxes and some agent commission fees. Some others are offered at extremely low prices and other units are rented out to individuals for a number of years until the property is officially given to them.
According to a 2013 government report, there are over eight million abandoned houses which are mostly located in provinces or on the outskirts of major cities.
Based on projections by Nomura Research Institute, the vacant homes are expected to increase to over 20 million by 2033. This means almost a third of all homes nationwide will be uninhabited by then.
Observers believe that Japan’s aging population has resulted in the country’s unique housing crisis. Without enough young people around, homes left by the aged Japanese citizens who passed away or moved into retirement homes remain empty for years.
Other properties listed on the akiya banks are also associated with tragedies such as suicide, murder, or “lonely deaths.” Superstitious buyers tend to stay away from such properties as they are thought to bring bad luck in Japanese culture.
Some local government agencies are even forced to offer subsidies for those who decide to take over and renovate old properties.
Wataru Sakakibara, a senior consultant at NRI who led the thinktank’s study, believes there is no immediate answer to the problem.
“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.
Images via inakano seikatsu