Town in West Tokyo offering free homes to new residents

Okutama Town in the far western outskirts of Tokyo is offering free homes to entice younger residents. Under the scheme, selected families will be provided with accommodation for 15 years, after which they will receive ownership of the house for free. They will not be charged rent for the duration of the term, although they will be required to pay annual property taxes (around 30,000 Yen per year) and will have to bear any renovation and repair costs.

This is the second time that the town has offered free housing. In January and February, the town received over 250 inquiries and 24 applications on a house offered under the scheme.

The second round of applications is open from April 15 to May 15. Applicants must be a married couple under the age of 40, or under the age of 50 if they have a child under the age of 18. If they receive a large number of inquiries, they will select the applicants that best fit the criteria. Those living overseas are ineligible – the program is only open to tax-paying residents who live in Japan.

The property on offer is located in the Unazawa neighbourhood. It is a 30-year old, two-storey wooden-frame house with four rooms and a dining/kitchen. It has a total floor area of 118 sqm (1,270 sq ft) and includes a 490 sqm plot of farmland.

The town is also seeking to buy empty homes that are within a 10 ~ 15 minute walk of the five train stations along the JR Ome Line within the town limits. They are also seeking the donation of vacant homes. Residents looking to build or buy a house in the town may be eligible for subsidies of up to 2 million Yen.

About Okutama Town

Okutama is 73 km west of Shinjuku, and it takes around two hours by train to travel from Shinjuku to Okutama Station.

It had a population of 5,483 as of April 1, 2015, down 53% from 1970 and down 28% from 2000. 46.6% of the residents are over the age of 65.

The town tends to receive the highest snowfall in the Tokyo area with as much as 1 meter of snow in some parts during winter. During heavy snowfall in February 2014, the roads to some of the smaller communities in town were temporarily cut off.

Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 7, 2015.

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