2018 Volume 83 Issue 746 Pages 725-733
Vacant housing problems are prevalent in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, even in a suburban city with high demand. In such areas, it is socially inefficient that houses that are potentially advantageous in terms of building/locational characteristics and could be utilized in the used housing market remains vacant for extended periods. On the other hand, some vacancies are being utilized for public purposes without any compensation. However, previous literature on the actual conditions of vacant houses and owners' willingness to utilize them has not differentiated between the potentially advantageous and disadvantageous varieties in the used housing market. Therefore, the objectives of this paper were (i) to compare the building/locational characteristics of vacant houses to those of the entire housing stock in a city, (ii) to investigate whether long-term vacancies exist, even among those that are potentially advantageous, (iii) to clarify the reasons for this social inefficiency, and (iv) to identify the appropriate places for the public use of such vacancies.
We obtained evidence regarding long-term vacancies in a suburban city of Tokyo using a novel dataset of building/locational characteristics of vacant houses and questionnaire surveys conducted on the owners. The data were collected through a survey of vacant houses and the property tax ledger from Kawaguchi city, Saitama, which has a strong housing demand owing to convenient access to central Tokyo.
Generally, vacant houses have disadvantageous building/locational characteristics, including narrow/no front roads, a small area of floor space, and oldness, compared with occupied houses, suggesting that the used housing market works to some extent. Indeed, houses less than 23 years of age have a small probability of being vacant, suggesting that most are placed on the market soon after the residents have moved out.
However, long-term vacancy surely exists, even among vacant houses with advantageous characteristics, such as wide front roads, a large area of floor space, and newness. Indeed, we found that more than 80% of vacant houses have been vacant for longer than 2 years, and more than 20% for longer than 10 years.
Among long-term vacancies, structural differences clearly exist. Disadvantageous ones remain vacant because there is no demand for them. Potentially advantageous ones, on the other hand, remain vacant for a period, but are finally utilized by the owners or placed on the market. This temporal social inefficiency is mainly caused by (i) the inheritance of unnecessary houses or the relocation of owner-occupiers, and (ii) their intention to maintain their houses as “assets” for an extended period because they are likely to utilize the houses again in the future. When owners are relatively young (that is, younger than 60 years old), they are more likely to utilize (that is, use by themselves or sell/lease on the market) their potentially advantageous vacant houses again. Generally, however, houses remain vacant until they become relatively old (that is, 40－49 years of building age).
Nevertheless, those temporary vacancies are likely to be leased for a period for public use without any compensation, especially by relatively young owners who find it difficult to maintain relatively new but currently vacant houses.