Vacant houses in Toyama City free for the taking

The local government has set up a matchmaking site for potential sellers and buyers and pays old and new owners a grant for necessary expenses once a deal is struck. This is a win-win project for both the people involved and the municipality, which is trying to increase the population and prevent the collapse of old houses.

“I received a request three days after listing my property on the website and was able to transfer it within a month,” said Toshio Nakahashi, who became the first person to transfer property in part of the project on April 30.

Nakahashi, 78, handed over his family’s two-story wooden house in Kamiichi, which had been vacant for more than 10 years since his mother, who lived alone, moved into a nursing home.

“I wanted to give away my house. It’s good that I didn’t get anything for that,” he recalls.

Nakahashi couldn’t afford the millions of yen the demolition would have cost, so he posted the property on the municipality’s website on April 1.

“I thought it would take a year or two. I am relieved,” he said.

Kamiichi’s population as of July 1 was 19,429, 70 percent of its peak in 1955. According to the city, as of March there were 330 vacant homes, and the government has received an increasing number of inquiries from its citizens about how to manage them.

Meanwhile, the town, just a 30-minute drive from Toyama City, has received a flurry of inquiries, since even before the COVID-19 outbreak, from people inside and outside outside the prefecture seeking to integrate agriculture into their way of life. Kamiichi created a website to link the two parties and named it “Zero Yen Vacant House Bank”.

About Walter J. Leslie

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