Today, many individuals, both young and old, desire to buy property, redesign, and refurbish an existing house into their dream home. Umbrellaed under terms like “fixer-upper” and “adaptive reuse,” these projects begin with the skeletons of old structures and the building’s history. Many architects around the globe have utilized abandoned structures and transformed them into architectural marvels for both civic and domestic purposes.
Japan, in particular, has implemented a system to help alleviate the country’s current housing crisis. Despite rising urban real estate prices and limited space, over 8 million properties across Japan are unoccupied – according to a government report in 2013. It is believed that around 2 million of these structures are abandoned and deserted. Following the current trends, these numbers continue to grow each year. It is estimated that 21 million homes will be unoccupied by 2033.
The Japanese government has allowed these properties to be sold for extremely low prices to alleviate local municipalities and cities from the problems that accompany abandoned structures. Not only are the homes visually unattractive as they decay over time, but they also become prone to fires and vandalism, and diminish the value of surrounding properties.
Despite these issues, in 2015, a government study showed that almost one-third of these properties are the victim of inheritance. Japan’s large elderly population passes these homes to their families prior to or after their death. Many of the new owners strongly resist selling, keeping the home as a family memento.
Many can be found on online databases called “akiya banks,” which provide interested parties with the most basic information regarding the listed properties. Although the listed properties might look like a “steal,” buyers must take into consideration a variety of other factors – some stem from Japanese cultural traditions that might be lost on a foreign investor.
An example of this is the vacant structures and apartment units that were once the site of a violent death, murder, suicide, or death that went unnoticed for periods of time. These events, in Japanese culture, can permanently label a residence as uninhabitable. There is even a site called “Oshimaland” with an interactive map littered with fire symbols that highlight many of the tainted properties, some accompanied by the reason as well.
Similar government programs have been utilized in countries around the world. Specifically, in Italy, abandoned historic structures were sold or rented for minimal amounts of money to help rejuvenate aging and decaying properties and promote further development.
News via Vice