Kyoto taxes vacant homes as Japan’s population shrinks

The quaint Japanese city of Kyoto is introducing a tax rate to address the demographic challenges of a country where the population is shrinking at a rate of about 1,500 people a day and the number of vacant homes is forecast to exceed 20 million over the next two decades.

Although the problem of akiya – Abandoned houses due to owner’s death and heirs refuse to manage – affecting the whole of Japan, Kyoto will be the first local government to fine people who leave their houses empty for a long time.

Although there are many temples, shrines, and traditions, ryokan hotels and world heritage sites that serve as travel magnetKyoto is one of the most indebted cities in Japan.

The tax, if successful, could become a template for other local governments. For decades, authorities have struggled to solve a problem that could leave charming neighborhoods once the remains of dilapidated, dilapidated homes that attract vermin and are often used. as a landfill for people who are too lazy to follow strict recycling rules.

Kyoto’s tax plan is an effort to make before homes become uninhabitable. Authorities said they were initially targeting 15,000 vacant homes that they believe, with tax incentives, could be rented out or renovated and sold.

Abandoned houses in Kyoto

Some once charming neighborhoods are now just rundown houses © Eri Sugiura / FT

Empty homes have been a years-long challenge for Japan, where 14% of the housing supply, or 8.5 million units, remained unoccupied in 2018, according to the latest survey. of the Ministry of the Interior.

The Nomura Research Institute estimates that, in a worst-case scenario, this number will increase to 31%, or 22 million units, by 2038. Housing supply easily outstrips the increase in the number of households in the world’s third-largest economy, where the population, including a pandemic-related exodus of foreigners, reduce 630,000 people last year, according to government data.

While the city needs the interior minister’s permission as well as city council approval this month, the levy is “expected to widen housing choices that are not yet on the market.” distribution market, so we don’t leave these properties empty, said Hiroyuki Nakagami, manager of the home tax system.

Yukihiro Sugatani from the Rokuhara district in central Kyoto said dozens of houses in the area had been abandoned for a decade. They are prohibited from being rebuilt because they were built on a small road before the building standards law was enacted in 1950 and did not meet its requirements.

“They immediately turn into empty houses when residents die. . . The family wants to leave the house empty because they believe the occupant’s nephew or niece will return in the future [from Tokyo and other big cities]. But that is an illusion. They never came back,” he said.

Koganezuka, in the mountains southeast of Kyoto, was one of several dormitory towns that developed around Japan’s biggest cities during the “economic miracle” years of the 1960s and 1970s. Today, its streets are a patchwork of modest homes and empty houses that quickly decay.

Seiichi Tamaki, who moved to the area in 1967, said he can remember being unable to drive to a nearby station because there were too many students jostling on the road.

Most of the residents are now in their 80s, said Tamaki, who is preparing to operate a minibus from April to bring elderly people to the bus station down the hill.

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