Broken wood pieces dangle and sway like autumn leaves from the window frames of vacant homes in Inariyato, part of Yokosuka in the greater-Tokyo urban area, where taped-over mailbox slots tell a story of abandonment.
More than 50 houses and apartments, almost 20 percent of the quaint residential neighborhood of narrow streets and stairway paths leading into green hills, are empty here, an hour’s train ride south of Tokyo and 1,000 yards (900 meters) from the Yokosuka naval base, home of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. That hasn’t stopped developers from building at least eight new apartment blocks in the same city in the past two years.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to boost the economy in part by reviving the housing market and encouraging new home construction is in conflict with Japan’s demographics. Rural, suburban and less-desirable urban areas are becoming littered with empty homes as younger people moving to cities combines with one of the world’s fastest-aging populations. At the same time, tax breaks on mortgages favoring new-home purchases, recently extended to 2017 and increased to 50 million yen from 30 million yen, are spurring demand for new properties.
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