Japan to reduce unsafe abandoned houses by cutting tax breaks


The government will review fixed property tax breaks for housing land to reduce abandoned houses that are rapidly increasing in number across the country due to the shrinking population, informed sources said.

Decaying houses will be disqualified from the tax incentives once they are labeled as unsafe by municipalities under standards to be compiled by the central government, the sources said.

The government plans to enact the taxation change in fiscal 2015, which starts next April, to encourage owners of such houses to demolish them at an early date.

According to a survey by the internal affairs ministry, the proportion of abandoned houses rose to a record high of 13.5 percent of total houses nationwide as of Oct. 1, 2013, a 0.4 percentage point rise from the previous survey conducted in 2008.

The government is concerned that abandoned houses present safety hazards, could easily collapse from natural disasters, and tarnish local scenery.

Many owners are reluctant to tear down such houses even if they are unoccupied because housing land is currently eligible for the tax breaks. Under the present system, tax burdens surge if those houses are demolished, creating vacant land.