Kanazawa City finds success matching machiya with new residents

On August 9th, Kanazawa City announced a record number of contracts between Kanazawa-style machiya townhouse owners and buyers and tenants in 2017. A total of 12 contracts were signed in 2017.

The program is run by the city through their Kanazawa Machiya Information Center, which connects owners and agents with people looking to utilize the historic homes. The city’s service, which started operations in 2011, typically finds anywhere from 1 ~ 7 matches per year, but the opening of the Center in late 2016 has made it easier for interested owners and users to connect. The system operates similarly to many of the vacant home banks operated by local municipalities across the country. With the cooperation of the Ichikawa Prefecture Society of Architects and Engineers, machiya-style homes are registered online, with transaction support provided by the Ishikawa Takken Association.

The City office, along with related non-profit organizations, provides information and support to both owners and potential occupants, including site visits and consultations with owners to assess their needs, and evaluations and floor plans drawn up by architects. Those looking to buy or rent a machiya can register their details to access listing information.

One unforeseen problem is that demand is outstripping supply. There are anywhere from 30 ~ 40 new registered users each year, but only around 10 property listings. Sale prices of Kanazawa-machiya on the matching site range from 4 ~ 21 million Yen (approx. 36,000 ~ 190,000 USD), while rental listings range from 85,000 ~ 162,000 Yen per month (765 ~ 1,460 USD).

Educating owners of these historic homes is also important with some owners not realizing or understanding the historical significance of their property and receiving poor advice from realtors advising them to tear down the home. As a result, as many as 100 are demolished each year.

In an effort to protect these homes, the City is considering an ordinance that would exempt Kanazawa-machiya from having to meet certain requirements under the Building Standards Act when restoring them.

Kanazawa-machiya are traditional merchant townhouses, samurai residences, and early-century modern homes built before 1950. The city escaped WWII damage and many historical buildings remain. Compared to Osaka and Kyoto, where many machiya were originally built by wealthy landlords as rental housing, Kanazawa residents have historically been somewhat against the idea of renting, with many of the homes purely built for owner-occupiers.

Kanazawa City began actively seeking to protect and preserve its historical homes in the early 2000s after seeing the efforts made by Kyoto City. In some cases, the city can provide financial assistance of up to 4 ~ 5 million Yen towards restorations. To be eligible, restorations must follow strict criteria, including using only traditional methods such as mud walls. Restoration costs can easily cost upwards of 10 ~ 20 million Yen (approx. 90,000 ~ 180,000 USD).

The Chunichi Shimbun, August 10, 2018.
Lifull Home’s Press, May 19, 2017.
Kanazawa Machiya Information Center.

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