Weight Determines Rent in One Japanese Building

If residents at the Lady Share House B&D in Japan gain weight, their pants won't be the only thing getting tighter: They’ll feel the squeeze on their wallets, too.

For two-dozen women in an all-female communal residence in Osaka, rent is determined by the tenants' weight. Women are officially weighed every three months, and their rent is calculated by multiplying their weight in kilograms by 1,000 yen (about $10).

To keep tenants on track, the residence provides exercise facilities, lectures on weight loss and dieting techniques, and discounts at neighborhood beauty salons. In an apparent paradox, the communal kitchen also stocks unlimited free fizzy drinks and processed snack foods like potato chips — but administrator Mari Kataoka told the AP that this is part of the master plan, not a ploy to raise women’s rent. “By having snacks at their disposal, we hope they will become more resistant to temptation,” she said.

Good idea for healthy living? Maybe. Monetary incentives are powerful, and the (somewhat creepily named) Lady Share is not the first to use financial penalties and rewards to encourage healthy choices. General Electric makes employees who smoke pay an extra $625 a year for health insurance, and Weight Watchers charges fees for members who can’t maintain their goal weight.

But there’s one problem: Women with weight problems aren't the ones moving in.

“We thought overweight people would be coming to live here,” said Kataoka. “But we found out that many people who already have a great body come here.”

Japan is already one of the slimmest countries in the developed world, with obesity rates at around 3.5 percent, according to figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. With a quarter of women in their 20s underweight and 2 percent of female high school students qualifying as anorexic, the issue is eating too little, not too much.

Image: Rostislav Sedlacek/Fotolia