As everyone knows, Japan has an unmanageable surplus of vacant housing. According to the latest government surveys there are more than 8 million unoccupied houses and apartment units in Japan and that number will increase to the point where one in four or five residences will be empty by 2030.

The government's solutions so far involve measures to find uses for these residences or incentives to get owners to tear them down. There is also a corollary problem: Shuttered shopping arcades.

In June, the Cabinet approved the draft of a bill it hopes to submit to the Diet by the end of the year and which would affect the property taxes of businesses that use their residences as offices or retail outlets. The tax assessment rate for residential land drops to one-sixth the normal rate when owners erect a building on it, and that adjustment extends to the owner's business if the owner's residence includes a space for business. However, the new law would remove this exclusion for the business portion of the property if it is vacant, even if the residential portion is occupied.