空き家問題 放置せず撤去・再活用したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun October 16, 2013
More must be done to turn abandoned houses into places to come home to
空き家問題 放置せず撤去・再活用したい(10月14日付・読売社説)

The central and local governments need to cooperate in working out how unoccupied or abandoned houses can be effectively used or removed.

The Liberal Democratic Party plans to submit to the extraordinary Diet session a bill concerning special measures for unoccupied, abandoned houses. As it is feared the number of these houses will increase in line with the nation’s graying population and low birthrate, the central government needs to take action to address the problem.

According to an Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry survey, there are about 7.6 million unoccupied houses in Japan, accounting for 13 percent of the total number.

These unoccupied and often dilapidated houses adversely impact their surrounding environments, and have generated problems not only in depopulating provincial areas but also in densely populated urban areas.

There have been cases in which houses are at risk of collapse or their exterior walls are in danger of toppling, or suspicious people frequently enter and leave such buildings, worsening public safety in the vicinity. A community must not be left to fend for itself if it feels ill at ease concerning local disaster management and crime prevention.

Dealing with unoccupied, abandoned houses has so far been mostly left to local governments. Some municipalities have established their own ordinances to urge owners of unoccupied houses to manage them properly or have them removed. However, some observers have pointed out that measures taken by prefectural or city, town and village governments alone will only have a limited effect.

To improve this situation, the LDP plans to authorize governments of cities, towns and villages to enter the premises of unoccupied houses, and enable them to order owners of houses that endanger neighboring areas to repair or remove them.

Nevertheless, it will cost a considerable amount of money to tear down and remove buildings. The central government should refer to a public subsidy system adopted by some local governments.

Give rural areas a boost

It also has been pointed out that when an unoccupied house is torn down, thus emptying the lot, the tax burden on the land owner becomes heavier because they are no longer eligible for a reduced fixed asset tax, which is applied to a housing site.

The LDP proposal likely will include a reduction in the fixed asset tax for building owners who tear down and remove these structures at their own initiative. It is hoped this would encourage owners of such buildings to take needed actions voluntarily.

In addition to the provision of the special law, it will become important for the government to make efforts to reuse unoccupied houses or plots of land made vacant in favorable locations.

It would be a good idea to expand such projects as renovating unoccupied houses into rented houses or rented stores in urban areas, and leasing them at reasonable rates to low-income earners or people who want to start up a business.

We hope that in underpopulated areas, a helping hand can be given to projects designed to reinvigorate the local economy by, for instance, helping people who want to move from urban areas to provincial areas find unoccupied houses.

An increasing number of local governments have created an online “vacant house bank,” through which the public can find information concerning empty houses in their areas and apply to rent them. The central government could do worse than to consider the possibility of expanding this into a nationwide service modeled on the examples already in operation.

Some real estate agents and security agencies have started proxy services for managing vacant houses. Both the public and private sectors need to think long and hard about how to turn plans for these abandoned buildings into action.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 14, 2013)
(2013年10月14日01時53分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2013-10-17 08:28 | 英字新聞

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