Japan’s Housing Crisis: Not Enough People, Too Many Vacant Homes

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On the opposite side of the world, the housing crisis isn’t about a shortage in supply but a shortage of people needing homes. Recent data released by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications show that the country’s number of empty homes continues to rise.

The survey reveals that vacancies have reached a staggering 8.99 million, marking an 80% increase over the past two decades. This means that 13.8% of all homes in Japan are now unoccupied, with the share exceeding 20% in some rural areas where population decline is more pronounced.

The data also highlights a significant increase in the number of abandoned homes, which has risen to 3.85 million, or 5.9% of all homes.

This trend is in stark contrast to the United States, where vacancy rates remain relatively stable at 6.6% for rental housing and 0.8% for homeowner housing. In Canada, it’s a staggering 1.5%, a new low, for rental housing.

Experts warn that the high vacancy rate could have severe consequences for Japan, including increased crime, property deterioration, and heightened safety and disaster prevention risks. The Nomura Research Institute predicts that the vacancy rate could surpass 30% by 2033 if no action is taken, resulting in a situation where every occupied home would have a vacant house next door.

Addressing the issue is complicated by Japan’s declining population, which has been shrinking for years. The most recent count in 2022 showed a decrease of more than 800,000 people from the previous year, bringing the total population to 125.4 million. Additionally, the birth rate has hit record lows, and the number of children has fallen for 43 consecutive years.

While the government has implemented measures to tackle the problem, such as allowing local authorities to demolish homes at risk of collapse and issuing warnings to owners of mismanaged properties, these efforts have seen limited success. 

Tax policies and ownership record-keeping issues further complicate the situation, making it difficult to address the growing number of vacant homes effectively.


Information for this story was found via Nikkei, Fortune, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.