Sapporo sees drop in vacant homes for first time

The number of vacant homes in Sapporo City is on the decline. In 2018, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reported 125,400 vacant homes and apartments within the city, resulting in a ratio of 11.9%. This was the first year since 1993 to see a decline. What is causing it?

Between the 2013 and 2018 survey, Sapporo’s vacancy rate dropped by 2.2 points, while the number of vacant homes dropped by over 16,000 units.

The Ministry’s definition of a vacant home, or ‘akiya’, refers to homes that are not in use as the primary residence of their owner, either due to being advertised for rent or sale, temporarily empty due to various circumstances (eg. a job transfer or hospitalization), or used as holiday homes. Then, there is a classification for homes that fit none of the previous criteria. These properties are often in various states of disrepair and neglect and are of the highest concern to cities and communities across Japan. Sapporo had 44,300 of these homes in 2018, up over 10,000 units from 2013, and the highest level the city has seen.

Essentially these homes are considered unlivable. They often require expensive repairs, or similarly expensive costs just to demolish them. They are often not in areas with any demand, leaving the owners or heirs little opportunity to sell or rent them out. Some are given away for free in the rare case where a buyer can be found. New regulations introduced in 2015 give local municipalities the authority to demolish these homes if the owners will not cooperate, with the demolition bill sent to the owner afterward.

The number of vacant homes advertised for rent in Sapporo dropped by a staggering 30,000 units, while the vacant homes advertised for sale dropped by 3,000 units. The recent deregulation of the home-sharing industry may have contributed to the drop in the availability of rental housing, with Sapporo having the second-highest number of Airbnb properties in Japan.

Sapporo City has a population of 1.97 million, 964,465 households, and a total of 1,051,400 homes. 

Source: The Nikkei Shimbun, November 17, 2019.

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