Kyoto City officials have voted in favor of a rule that will require owners of Kyoto’s traditional machiya townhouses to provide advance notice to the city prior to demolition. However, options to help reduce the burden of maintaining a historic home remain extremely limited. Without the support and participation from the local community this new rule may have only a minor effect.
Depending on the property, owners will be obligated to provide the city with one year’s notice before demolishing a machiya. This will give the city enough time to suggest alternative uses for the existing structure or even find other people who want to use the home. The rule will be enforced from May 2018. The one year advance notification requirement is limited to machiya that are considered valuable to the continued scenic and cultural aspects of the area as well as those located in designated districts. The maximum fine for those who fail to notify the city will be 50,000 Yen (approx. 455 USD). Demolition contractors will also be required to check that property owners have notified the city and will also need to notify the city themselves.
A machiya is defined as a wood-framed building constructed before the introduction of the Building Standards Act in 1950, and with a traditional method of construction and town-living design. Features may include a long entrance / hallway at the side of the house with kitchen and vaulted ceiling, a small courtyard garden, tiled eaves on the first storey, and grid-type lattice work.
Approximately 800 Kyoto machiya are demolished each year, or around 2 homes each day. In May 2017, the city released data from an investigation that showed there were 40,000 machiya left in the city in 2016, down 5,600 from a previous survey in 2008 ~ 2009. Almost 15% of the machiya are vacant and not in use by their owners, up 4 points from the previous survey.
Kyoto City Homepage, December 15, 2017.
The Kyoto Shimbun, November 29, 2017.