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Sharing Economy

New Tokyo homes ditch parking spaces but offer car sharing

Developer Mitsui Fudosan cuts costs as millennials choose Singapore-style mobility

Mitsui Fudosan waives the membership fee in its car-sharing service for buyers of a group of new houses lacking parking spaces. (Photo by Manami Yamada)

TOKYO -- A Japanese developer has begun experimenting with homes that offer free car sharing instead of a parking space as more people in Japan's capital live without their own automobiles.

The new two-story, three-bedroom homes, located near the Nakanobu metro station in Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward, represent a first for Mitsui Fudosan Residential, which sells about 400 homes a year in urban neighborhoods.

Homebuyers can use a Mitsui Fudosan group car-sharing service without paying the monthly membership fee of about $9. Prices start at just over 75 million yen ($685,000) for about 80 sq. meters of floor space.

"A growing number of people in urban areas see car parking space as unnecessary," the head of the company's regional development told Nikkei. Some buyers of the new houses got rid of their cars, he said.

Doing without parking also helps the developer conserve space in crowded Tokyo, whose 23 wards are about the size of Singapore and are home to over 9 million people. 

The limited site area means the new houses would have needed three stories to create parking spaces, adding to building costs. Without parking, the homes cost less than comparable units of new condominiums nearby, a company official said. The affiliated car-sharing provider has a base in the neighborhood.

More than 50% of condo residents in the Tokyo metropolitan area did not use the units' garages or parking lots in 2018, up from around 20% in 2007, said Yoichi Ikemoto, editor-in-chief of Suumo, a housing information website run by Recruit Sumai.

Citing a 40% increase for average condo prices in the 23 wards of Tokyo over five years, Ikemoto said that "more and more people appear to be giving up owning cars and becoming content with car sharing."

Membership in car-sharing services soared to 1.62 million nationwide in 2019, double the number from three years earlier, according to an estimate from the Foundation for Promoting Personal Mobility and Ecological Transportation.

Tokyu Land has debuted a service providing shared taxi rides to golf courses, teaming with NearMe, which offers a cab-sharing app. The Tokyu group owns many golf courses and housing lots in the suburbs.

"As more young people chose not to own cars, they are also are losing interest in golf," said Shuichi Takano, chief researcher at the Tokyu Fudosan R&D Center.

The spread of car-sharing and ride-hailing services allows people to move freely even if they do not own a vehicle.

Singapore leads in introducing such services. Roads occupy 12% of the land in the city-state, which has 5.7 million people  and can spare little more space for streets and parking lots.

Singapore's Smart Mobility 2030 initiative, unveiled in 2014, calls for achieving a highly mobile society using information technology. Also in 2014, major ride-hailer Grab moved its headquarters to Singapore from Malaysia, boosting activity in the city-state. A government-led electric car sharing service, dubbed BlueSG, was launched in 2017.

With the number of owned automobiles in the country staying at roughly 600,000, Singapore succeeds in curbing traffic jams.

Consumer attitudes toward cars are changing in every country. A survey by Deloitte Tohmatsu Group of ride-hailing users found that younger generations saw less need to own cars. In Japan, more than half of respondents 44 or younger regarded car ownership as unnecessary.

But the rising popularity of car sharing dampens automobile production, which many countries regard as a key industry. Beyond prompting individual automakers to offer such services themselves, the trend could reshape the automotive industry as a whole.

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