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Abandoned houses in Japan face a visit from the taxman

Kobe, Kyoto and other cities try new approach to fighting urban blight

An abandoned home in Kobe. Over 8 million homes in Japan are empty, a number expected to rise as the country's population shrinks. (Photo courtesy of Kobe city government)

KOBE, Japan/KYOTO -- With over 8 million Japanese homes standing empty, some cities have begun to turn up the tax pressure on owners to combat urban blight.

Local tax rates in Japan are roughly three to four times lower on residential land than on nonresidential sites, owing to an incentive introduced during the country's postwar economic boom.

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