On a city/town/district level, Setagaya ward in Tokyo has the highest number of empty homes, or akiya, in Japan. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there were an estimated 49,070 empty homes in Setagaya as of a 2018 survey, representing 10.4% of total housing stock. Neighboring Ota ward was in second place nationwide with 48,080 empty homes, and a 14.8% vacant house ratio.

Setagaya is primarily a suburban residential area with detached homes and small apartment blocks. It has a relatively high percentage of residents over the age of 65. The total population of the ward is forecast to reach 1,087,275 residents in 2042, a 20.8% increase from 2018. In the 1930s, when it was being developed into housing subdivisions, the population was around 200,000. Over 90% of the ward’s land is zoned residential, with half having exclusive residential zoning.

If a home receives a special akiya designation by the local ward office, the property owner may no longer be eligible for the discounted annual tax that applies to residential land. This can result in an annual tax bill quadrupling from its normal rate. This measure has been put in place to deter owners from letting empty homes fall into disrepair and to encourage them to sell the land.

When looking at the percentage of vacant homes, Setagaya does not even make it to the nationwide top ten. Instead, regional areas outside of urban centers dominate the rankings. In top spot is Yubari City in Hokkaido with a vacant home ratio of 40%. Hokkaido’s Utashinai City is ranked third at 33.3%, while Mikasa City, sandwiched between Yubari and Utashinai, is in fourth place at 31.6%.

The Nikkei Shimbun, January 11, 2020.
Setagaya City Vacant House Countermeasure Plan, October 2018.