With an estimated 100 million people currently homeless around the world, the fact there are millions of homes around the world lying empty is even more shocking. To find out which countries are the worst offenders when it comes to leaving properties vacant, U.K.-based mortgage firm money.co.uk analyzed OECD data to reveal the countries where empty properties make up the biggest proportion of the total housing.

Story continues below

The top 20 countries with the most empty homes:

Rank Country Total homes Vacant homes Vacant homes (% of total homes)
1 Japan 62,420,000 8,460,100 13.60%
2 Cyprus 455,410 56,851 12.50%
3 Hungary 4,455,491 550,113 12.30%
4 United States 139,684,000 15,549,000 11.10%
4 Brazil 71,015,000 7,906,767 11.10%
6 Finland 3,076,000 330,000 10.70%
6 Chile 6,486,533 695,199 10.70%
8 Slovenia 852,181 89,728 10.50%
9 Australia 10,562,800 1,039,879 9.80%
10 Ireland 2,003,645 183,312 9.10%
11 Canada 15,412,443 1,340,364 8.70%
12 France 39,806,000 3,085,000 7.80%
13 Poland 14,439,777 1,038,220 7.20%
14 New Zealand 1,884,300 125,400 6.70%
15 Colombia 14,245,482 879,395 6.20%
16 Denmark 2,900,000 170,000 5.90%
17 Netherlands 7,966,000 344,000 4.30%
18 Switzerland 4,469,498 72,294 1.60%
19 Iceland 140,600 2,177 1.50%
20 England 24,414,000 225,845 0.90%

 

The report by mortgage editor Nisha Vaidya says the country with the most vacant homes in the world is Japan, with 13.6 per cent of all homes in the country empty. An aging population and a decline in birth rate mean that Japan’s population is currently declining and therefore housing demand is falling. A second-home tax may also be putting people off inheriting any relatives’ properties, due to hefty fees, says Vaidya.

Coming in second is Cyprus, home to 56,851 empty dwellings, which accounts for one in eight homes on the Mediterranean island. Many of the empty homes are located in the “ghost town” of Varosha, a previous tourist hotspot that has since been abandoned after the country was invaded in 1974, says Vaidya.

Another country with a high level of empty homes is Hungary, where 12.3 per cent of properties are currently unoccupied. Like Japan, Hungary has both an aging and declining population.

The study also looked at the countries with the most empty homes compared to the homeless population.

The top 10 countries with the most empty homes compared to homeless population:

Rank Country Number of homeless Vacant homes Vacant homes needed to house homeless population
1 Japan 3,992 8,460,100 0.05%
2 Brazil 101,854 7,906,767 1.29%
3 Colombia 13,252 879,395 1.51%
4 Finland 5,482 330,000 1.66%
5 Hungary 10,068 550,113 1.83%
6 Chile 14,013 695,199 2.02%
7 Poland 30,330 1,038,220 2.92%
8 Ireland 5,873 183,312 3.20%
9 United States 580,466 15,549,000 3.73%
10 Denmark 6,431 170,000 3.78%
11 Slovenia 3,799 89,728 4.23%
12 France 141,500 3,085,000 4.59%
13 Canada 129,127 1,340,364 9.63%
14 Australia 116,427 1,039,879 11.20%
15 Netherlands 39,300 344,000 11.42%
16 Iceland 349 2,177 16.03%
17 New Zealand 41,644 125,400 33.21%
18 England 289,800 225,845 128.32%

Given that Japan had the highest percentage of empty homes, it’s not surprising to see that it’s also the country that could rehome its homeless population the quickest, says the report. Japan has a small homeless population (3,992) in comparison to its overall population (>126 million), meaning that just 0.05 per cent of its empty homes would be needed to house every homeless person in the country.

7 COMMENTS

  1. China? I’ve read elsewhere that they have over 65 million empty apartments, but they are nowhere to be find on your list?

    • Just like all the covid-19 stats in China. For the first half of the global pandemic, China had claimed nearly zero deaths

  2. This is an article with an interesting bent.

    Why is it shocking that there are millions of homes around the world that sit empty? Who says it’s shocking? Why are countries rated as “worst offenders” with a relatively higher ratio of empty homes? Who says it’s an offense? The negative connotations are biased of course. The key to the whole point of this article is tied up in an unnamed adjective, being “freehold”. Whomever owns these homes can do with them as they see fit within the confines of the area laws. What’s next: labelling drivers of five passenger cars as offenders if they don’t pick up hitch-hikers or bus-stop-waiting passengers to fill their empty seats?

    The world ain’t fair; life ain’t fair, because the notion of fairness is a human construct based upon emotion. Some do better than others; some do worse. There are no guarantees in life. There is only life.

    I once rented out a house. I would have been better off letting it sit empty for the year it was rented out before I sold it. It wasn’t worth the aggravation. I couldn’t wait to kick the jerk out.

    Why is it owners of these homes concerns’ are apparently of no import? Who says their concerns don’t matter? It’s a judgement call. It’s a philosophical conundrum with no clear-cut right answer. There are only biased answers.

    I’m glad REM ran this piece however. It gives pause for thought amongst the readership. It encourages critical thinking.

  3. Norm and Francis: You’ve both hit the hammer on the head with the nail! There’s some real nonsense going on in this country and the press is ignoring it.

  4. I find it interesting that this article seems unsigned and should appear in a magazine for realtors, people who make their livings on commissions and by finding it within themselves to generate the drive to succeed.
    It gives the impression that the “homeless” should automatically be able to move into these homes that belong to folks who worked hard and paid for them.
    There is no research to back up why these folks are homeless in a society that has so many jobs that go unfilled and just gives out money for the ability to “fog a glass”.
    So much of the problem is about choosing addiction over work, not being law-abiding, moving to places one cannot afford, not being good tenants, and not getting along with other tenants or co-workers. The sense of entitlement in our world is getting stronger every year.
    It is time to vet articles in this magazine to reflect the realtor population and give a more balanced, rather than socialist bent.

  5. I would question how old these statistics are for Canada. With the tightest market in history for resale homes and rentals why would we have nearly 9% of houses sitting empty. What does that say about Canadian or offshore investors who would rather leave a money maker sit empty in a market begging for more housing? Home insurance is expensive and more difficult to obtain for vacant homes. Some cities even have a vacancy tax. Are our laws so biased in favour of bad tenants that no income is better some? Is there no one with a subliminal answer out there reading this and the rest of Realtors think all is well?

  6. I use to donate a percentage of each commission cheque to Habitat for Humanity and then I retired… no more cheques no more automatic donations. I got a phone call a few months later from Habitat saying they hadn’t had a donation in a while… I told them I had retired. The gentleman said that I could still send them money and I agreed to do so AFTER he showed me at least one paid out mortgage! Habitat pays nothing for the land, the materials and work is all donation and volunteers and there is a “mortgage” the people are to pay… which they do for a couple of months or so and stop.

    We kind of forget about these thousands of houses but I’d still like to know what happens to them… I’m convinced they are sold with huge profits (no costs remember) to some churches who will go unnamed.

    I proposed a project to a lady on city council about 25 years ago that some of the homes in the least expensive areas and let the poor fix them up (with assistance) with the view to ownership… but that didn’t fly! (of course).

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here