LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Japan is giving away unwanted houses

Tokyo – VIJAY SHAH via LUCY DAYMAN and Culture Trip

While finding a home at even an average price is next to impossible in the big cities of much of the developed world (London, New York etc., I’m looking at you), Japan is making things a least a little bit easier for aspiring homeowners. Over there in the Far East, they are practically giving away abandoned houses for free, according to travel and culture site Culture Trip.

Some towns in Japan have started doling out residences for free, and in the very nature of town-hall bureaucracy, have divided the types of homes they are distributing into two categories.

 

The first category covers vacant homes, or akiya in Japanese. These are houses that have been abandoned, left vacant and are usually in dilapidated condition. Currently on the islands there are over eight million properties nationwide being abandoned to the elements, with concentrations of akiya predominant in large cities like Tokyo, according to a 2013 government report. About a quarter still have owner-landlords who do not bother to sell up or maintain their properties. Due to culture and superstitions, many of these properties have been left unwanted due to suicides, murders and other deaths occurring in them, which puts off local househunters uncomfortable with the lingering presence of an unfortunate soul’s passing. Demographics also play a part in the glut of unwanted homes Japan is facing, with the expensive cost of living putting off young families from moving away from their parents or rented accommodation and also Japan’s rapidly ageing population.

Unable to sell to locals, many town councils are now forced to give akiya away for free to stop them attracting drug addicts, squatters and wild animals, and to hold back urban decay. Some towns have started offering subsidies to attract potential homeowners. They now also offer online ‘akiya banks’, a sort of Gumtree for busted-up housing, with prices started from zero yen (yes that’s 0円! – bargain!!).

The second category of Japanese housing ‘on the house’ (well, technically heavily subsidised, but still very cheap) is found exclusively in the town of Okutama, on Tokyo’s western fringes. Okutama has unveiled a cheap rent to own housing scheme geared towards young families priced out of the Tokyo metropolitan market. For a monthly rent of 50,000 yen (£345), families can rent a whole house, which will pass to their ownership after a period of 22 years. There is no need to take out a mortgage or pricey housing loans, and the daily commute to Tokyo is only 1 hour and forty-five minutes (one-way). The Okutama houses are all brand-new, well-built and fully fitted, but you must be under the age of 43 and have junior school-age children.

If you do have money to splash, then fear not, you can buy an entire island off the coast of the Mie Prefecture, near Osaka, for less than the cost of an average 1-2 bedroom home in London. Now to learn Japanese, develop a taste for sushi and wave sayonara to your local overheated housing market!

SOURCES:

Sherrie Bachell/Facebook.

“Japan is Giving Away Abandoned Homes for Free” – Lucy Dayman, culture trip/The Culture Trip Ltd (8 November 2018) https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles/japan-is-giving-away-abandoned-homes-for-free/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=link_japanhomes&fbclid=IwAR3t9mf53U8TQHNsly6w5rPVXUa2oG2Wvl_xg3oOAledtuNURT34SzI_Udo

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Japanese architecture” – Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_architecture

 

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NEW STRATFORD HOUSING PROJECT: Not so much in the way of ‘affordable’

London – VIJAY SHAH via ALEX SHAW and Newham Recorder

As the city of London struggles to house its growing population amidst a housing crisis and soaring rents and house prices, a new housing project underway in the district of Stratford has come in for criticism after it was revealed that only twenty-five per cent of the available stock will be marketed as affordable, the local community newspaper Newham Recorder reported.

The Legacy Wharf complex, being designed by Bellway Homes, is being promoted as an ideal site for first-time buyers to move into an up-and-coming part of east London, only a few minutes from the centre of the city. But only around 50 of the 196 flats (apartments) planned for the site will be classed as affordable, meaning that people on average city wages (around GBP £28,000/USD $38,788) will be able to successfully purchase them.

 

Legacy Wharf, which is expected to be ready this spring, claims to offer a variety of apartments for different budgets, especially for first-time buyers, young professionals and families. The development, located in Stratford’s Cooks Road will also have an on-site gym, children’s play facilities and even a concierge service, but the starting price for a one-bedroom flat there will start at GBP £365,000 (USD $505,631). The Bellway development will consist of a selection of one-, two- and three-bedroom living units, with some properties being available to buy via the UK government’s Help to Buy scheme, which aims to help first-time homeowners get their foot on the housing ladder.

Bellway did not comment on the limited amount of affordable housing offered at Legacy Wharf, which is being built in one of the poorest areas of London, where rapid gentrification have caused even low-grade ex-local housing authority homes to cost several hundred thousand of pounds. However Emma Denton, the firm’s sales director designate told the Newham Recorder “Homebuyers will have a great opportunity to invest in this revamped area of Stratford at Legacy Wharf,”

Many parts of east London have changed rapidly in recent years as new apartment blocks and villages have sprung up catering to young professionals and working families with jobs in central London, alongside foreign investors looking for the next property portfolio golden egg, but developers in the city have been criticised for not providing enough flats affordable to the vast majority of Londoners, particularly those on benefits or average incomes.

SOURCES:

Newham Recorder, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/Newham.Recorder/

“Quarter of flats in Stratford development ‘affordable’” – Alex Shaw, Newham Recorder/Archant (8 March 2018) http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/quarter-of-flats-in-stratford-development-affordable-1-5426504

IMAGE CREDIT:

“File:Granville New Homes, London.jpg” – Tim Crocker and Levitt Bernstein Archive, Wikimedia Commons (19 August 2009) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Granville_New_Homes,_London.jpg

LONDON HOUSING CRISIS: Bedding down in a van

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London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via JIMMY NSUBUGA & Metro

As London’s housing crisis spirals out of control, and both house prices and rents became more and more painful for the city’s 8 million inhabitants, one enterprising worker has taken a peculiar, if somewhat desperate, solution to keeping a roof over his head, the newspaper Metro reported yesterday.

Alex Hill, aged 24, is an IT worker who emigrated to the UK’s capital from the small town of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire county, England. Upon arriving in the big city, he found the price of renting beyond a joke, with single bedrooms in flatshares and houseshares now costing an average £550-750 per month. Buying a house would have also been just a dream, with the average London house now selling for around £500,000. There was no way, even in his relatively well-paid career, that Alex would have been able to purchase outright.

English: Boscombe, blue van A nice touch of se...
English: Boscombe, blue van A nice touch of self-parody, I’m sure! Looking up Westby Road towards Sea Road. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead he set up home….in a large blue commercial van. Hill uses the van as a place to sleep, parking it in side streets. While this seems makeshift, the IT employee, who works in the City, is able to save £1,000 per month on rent and utilities. Unfortunately the van has no running water or WC facilities, so Hill is forced to avoid drinking fluids after 7:00 pm to avoid having to use the toilet in a city where public urination is illegal.

He installed a bed in the vehicle, which also comes equipped with a solar powered generator for electricity and a small heater to keep Hill warm during this month’s cold winter nights.

“I was planning to cycle around Europe for a few months last summer and had already handed in the notice for my flat,” he told student newspaper The Tab.

“The plan was to stay with friends until I got another flat, but I decided to try out living in my car for a few weeks and showering at work.”

He often parks his unusual mobile home in hip places like Clapham, Brixton or anywhere in Islington where he can visit friends and camp outside after, and surprisingly with such a large van in a city notorious for its scarcity and expense of parking places, Alex Hill says he has no trouble with parking.

He added: “I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.

‘The most important thing for me was that I could still shower every day at the office, but it depends what you feel you need.”

It is not illegal in the UK to sleep or even live in your vehicle. Many homeless people often live in their cars in preference to being on the streets, and thousands of British holidaymakers often go on camping holidays in caravans, but Alex’s situation is also a sad example of the difficulties in finding safe and affordable accommodation in the capital, even for those in well-paid jobs.

Hill has been sleeping in his van since September 2015. The Metro article does not say whether he has any plans to move into a des res less mobile and four-wheeled.

SOURCES:
Metro, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/?fref=nf
“IT worker saves £1k each month by living in a van in London” – Jimmy Nsubuga, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (4 March 2016) http://metro.co.uk/2016/03/04/it-worker-saves-1k-each-month-by-living-in-a-van-in-london-5734100/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Boscombe, blue van – geograph.org.uk – 1277393.jpg” –  Mike Faherty, geograph.org.uk via Wikimedia Commons (29 April 2009) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boscombe,_blue_van_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1277393.jpg