National

Government plan for poor and elderly to use vacant homes falls short of target

Kyodo

Only about 7,000 vacant homes and rooms had been registered as of Thursday of an anticipated 50,000 annually under a government plan to help provide subsidized housing to single seniors and people on low incomes.

The underwhelming result may force the government to review the program, which was introduced in October 2017 in the hope of complementing its policy of accepting more foreign workers from April this year.

The government planned to have 175,000 units of accommodation registered by the end of fiscal 2020, but the low figure indicates a lack of interest among owners of vacant property.

Private landlords frequently turn away single seniors and low-income single-parent households, concerned that they will have to deal with rent defaults or elderly people passing away.

The government has been working to secure housing for vulnerable people and solve the problem of unoccupied residences that have increased with the graying of the population.

Under the policy that it implemented as part of its Housing Safety Net Law, the central and local governments partially subsidize rent and the cost of repairs needed to make homes barrier free for the disabled.

Property owners register their unoccupied housing as rental property with local governments, which then provide related information on their websites and match interested parties.

Adoption has been uneven across the nation. Of the 7,049 properties registered as of Thursday, three-quarters were concentrated around Osaka, according to official data. That was followed by the prefectures of Aichi and Yamanashi, with 429 and 284 units respectively. Elsewhere, none were registered in eight prefectures, while 19 prefectures had 10 or fewer.

“Osaka has continued to implement a similar policy on its own, and it has a very high awareness of the problem of housing discrimination,” said an official involved with the program.

The low number of registrations can be explained by a lack of public knowledge about the system, an infrastructure ministry official said.

The ministry plans to increase funding for nonprofit groups involved with housing assistance and send officials to local governments to urge them to increase the number of housing units registered.