Rescuing Japan’s Housing Market: Strategies to Combat the Empty Home Epidemic

Japan is grappling with a critical challenge: the proliferation of empty homes due to an ageing population, declining birth rates, and inheritance complexities. As the number of vacant properties surges, reaching 8.49 million units in 2018 and projected to rise to 23.03 million units by 2038, urgent measures are imperative to address this crisis. This essay explores the multifaceted strategies and collaborative efforts aimed at mitigating Japan’s empty home epidemic.

The Root Causes of Japan’s Empty Home Crisis

The phenomenon of empty homes in Japan stems from several interconnected factors. An ageing population and declining birth rates have led to a shrinking workforce and reduced demand for housing. Inherited properties, often left untouched due to logistical challenges or sentimental reasons, contribute significantly to the problem. Additionally, preferential tax treatment for residential land disincentivizes property owners from demolishing vacant homes, exacerbating the issue.

Government Intervention: Legislation and Policies

Recognizing the severity of the empty home crisis, the Japanese government enacted the Vacant Houses Special Measures Law in 2015. This legislation targets high-risk properties, mandating owners to either demolish or repair them. Failure to comply can result in government-enforced demolition at the owner’s expense. Furthermore, recent revisions to the law extend measures to poorly managed long-unoccupied homes, revoking tax incentives for neglectful owners.

Local Initiatives and Community Engagement

Local governments are at the forefront of addressing the empty home epidemic, implementing initiatives to support inheritance planning and property management. For example, Setagaya Ward in Tokyo collaborates with non-profit organizations to assist seniors in creating wills, aiming to prevent prolonged inheritance disputes and the emergence of new empty homes. These grassroots efforts empower communities to tackle the issue at a local level.

Innovative Solutions: Startups and Technological Advancements

Startups are leveraging technology to offer innovative solutions to Japan’s empty home crisis. Crassone provides a matching service connecting property owners with demolition specialists, streamlining the process of property disposal. Renobank revitalizes unoccupied properties through renovation, supported by an AI-driven platform that simulates renovation costs and post-demolition land appraisal prices. AGE Technologies simplifies real estate inheritance procedures through a one-stop web service, ensuring proper management of inherited properties.

Public-Private Collaboration: Consortia and Partnerships

Recognizing the need for collaborative efforts, a consortium comprising companies and organizations from various sectors was established in 2023. This consortium aims to strengthen public-private collaboration through information dissemination, policy recommendations, and dialogue exchange. By fostering partnerships and leveraging collective expertise, the consortium seeks to curb the rise of empty homes and revitalize Japan’s housing market.

Economic Implications and Market Potential

Takashi Inoue, CEO of LIFULL and consortium director, highlights the significant economic potential in utilizing empty homes. By effectively utilizing even a fraction of the estimated 8.5 million vacant properties, Japan could create a housing market worth approximately JPY 30 trillion. Globally, secondhand properties dominate housing markets, with Japan lagging behind at 15%. However, with increasing demand for existing homes and rising prices of new properties, there is a significant opportunity to revitalize the market and foster sustainable community development.


Japan’s empty home crisis poses a significant challenge with far-reaching implications for housing, communities, and the economy. However, through a combination of government intervention, local initiatives, innovative solutions, and collaborative efforts, progress is being made towards addressing this pressing issue. By implementing targeted policies, leveraging technological advancements, and fostering partnerships, Japan can transform its vacant properties into assets that contribute to vibrant, sustainable communities and a revitalized housing market.


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