Japan gives away vacant homes in bid to tackle country's unique housing crisis

Ella Wills
An abandoned house is pictured in a small village on April 22, 2016 in Miyoshi, Japan: Getty Images

Japan is giving away free homes or selling them at large discounts as part of a government scheme to tackle the country's unique housing crisis.

There are millions of abandoned and empty houses throughout the country, and its 'Akiya' scheme aims to tackle the issue while helping young people get onto the property ladder.

In 2013, more than eight million properties across Japan were unoccupied, according to a government report.

And the situation is expected to worsen as the nation's population is expected to decline from 127 million to about 88 million by 2065, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security, meaning even fewer people will need houses.

An elderly man and woman sit on a bench in a park in Tokyo (AFP/Getty Images)

Houses in Japan's countryside have been left deserted as young people leave rural areas for jobs in the city.

These vacant properties up for grabs are known as "akiya" in Japanese.

The akiya scheme gives these homes to young families for free or at a vastly discounted rate.

Properties can be found via a range of Akiya banks, which are databases of abandoned homes for sale, generally organised by region.

The scheme also hopes to revitalise towns that were expected to vanish.

In 2014, it was predicted that nearly 900 towns and villages across Japan would no longer exist by 2040.

Okutama was one of three Tokyo (prefecture) towns expected to vanish by this time, CNN reports.

Four years ago, the town established an akiya bank, which matches prospective buyers with ageing homeowners and empty properties.

Filipino-Japanese couple Rosalie and Toshiuki Imabayashi, who live in central Tokyo with their six children, will move to the town in early 2019.

"It was getting too cramped for us in Tokyo and we liked that Okutama was within the same prefecture but surrounded by nature," Ms Imabayashi said.

However giving away homes remains tough in a country where people prefer new builds.

There are 3,000 homes in Okutama, and around 400 are vacant, the broadcaster reported.

Only half of these are believed to be salvageable for inhabitants.