Japan’s vacant house ratio reaches 13.6%

On April 26, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released their housing and land data as of October 2018. This survey is carried out once every five years. According to the report, the nationwide residential vacancy rate was 13.6%, a 0.1 point increase from 2013. The total number of vacant homes across Japan reached 8,460,000, an increase of 260,000 homes over the past 5 years. 

Total housing stock in 2018 reached 62,420,000 homes, up 2.95% from 2013. Approximately 358,000 new homes have been added each year. Most of the new supply was in Tokyo with a net increase of 62,000 homes per year. New housing in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama accounted for 40% of the nationwide total.

It is important to understand the breakdown of the vacant home numbers. Over half of the homes (4,310,000 to be exact) were vacant because they were between tenants and advertised for rent. A further 290,000 homes were vacant because they were listed for sale. 380,000 homes were vacant because they were holiday homes and not used as primary residences. The number of holiday homes has decreased by 30,000 over the past five years.

The government estimates there are just 480,000 vacant homes nationwide that are within one kilometer from the nearest train station and only requiring a minimal amount of repairs to make them livable.

The vacant homes that are of concern to the government are those that are well-and-truly unused, often sitting for years or decades with no maintenance and with no plans by the owners to ever use them. These homes are often in such a dilapidated state that they are often uninhabitable. Many are also in regional areas with declining populations, making them essentially worthless. There were 3,470,000 homes that fell into this category, resulting in a nationwide vacancy rate closer to 5.6%.

In 2018, Yamanashi Prefecture was in top spot with the highest vacancy rate nationwide of 21.3%. It was followed closely by Wakayama Prefecture (20.3%), Nagano Prefecture (19.5%), and Tokushima Prefecture (19.4%). Yamanashi’s vacancy rate is on a strong upward trend, after reaching 16.2% in 2008 and 17.2% in 2013. 

Tokyo’s overall vacancy rate (including homes for rent, sale and holiday homes) was 10.6%, a 0.3 point decrease from 2013 and a 0.2 point decrease from 2008. In other words, Tokyo’s vacant home ratio is shrinking. Saitama and Okinawa Prefectures had the lowest vacancy rate across Japan with 10.2% each.

Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, April 26, 2019.
The Nikkei Shimbun, April 26, 2019.

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