New law enables use of abandoned land

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Diet enacted a special measures law on Wednesday to facilitate the use of vacant land, the ownership of which is unclear, for public purposes. The House of Councillors approved the bill at a plenary session.

The main pillar of the law is to grant third parties the right to operate on the land for 10 years in cases where the facilities they establish have high value to the public, such as parks.

As the amount of abandoned land continues to increase across the country, the government will prepare systems related to resolving the issue, including obligating land heirs to register.

Under the special measures law, prefectural governors will allow third parties to use abandoned land for up to 10 years. The law requires some specific conditions for them, such as that their projects highly contribute to the public’s benefit and that no other rights holder opposes the projects.

In cases where the land owner comes forward and claims the land, the law stipulates that the land has to be returned to them in its original condition after the period of its use ends.

It is envisaged to use such land for temporary sites when rebuilding schools, hospitals and other facilities, as well as for parks, local events and farm produce stands.

The law will come into full force around the summer of 2019. The government expects about 100 projects will be carried out nationwide over the 10 years after the law takes effect.

The law stipulates streamlining procedures of the central and local governments when they expropriate unclaimed land for public projects. It also strengthens administrative measures of the governments to search for owners of abandoned land, including allowing them to use the property tax ledger.

The abandoned land consists of plots of land for which the landowners’ whereabouts are unknown, mainly due to chains of undocumented inheritance.

According to an estimate presented by a private study group including experts, the total amount of unclaimed land reached around 4.1 million hectares in 2016 — an area larger than Kyushu.

Without implementing effective measures, the study group warned that the area of such land would grow up to about 7.2 million hectares in 2040, which is close to the size of Hokkaido, excluding its remote islands.Speech

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