Dateline: Sept 5

Can foreign buyers help solve Japan’s empty house problem?

As home ownership becomes increasingly expensive, SBS travels to Japan, where millions of abandoned houses are being sold cheaply or given away.

Tonight Dateline asks can foreign buyers help solve Japan’s empty house problem?

SBS speaks with expat Jaya Thursfield.

“We decided to come to Japan mainly because the house prices in Melbourne were way beyond our budget,” the 47-year-old told Dateline.

“I’d heard about ‘akiya’, so we decided to move to my wife’s hometown and find a cheaper place to live.”

Akiya are unwanted homes, mostly in the Japanese countryside, that have been abandoned as a side effect of Japan’s severe population decline and a trend toward urban living. Ninety per cent of Japan’s 125 million residents live in cities.

Thursfield found his akiya in Ibaraki prefecture, about an hour’s drive north-east of Tokyo, via a newspaper advertisement. He bought it for $30,000, a fraction of the median Australian house price of about $890,000.

9:30pm tonight on SBS.

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