Housing is a platform of wealth accumulation in many home-owning societies. Ownership of assets often contributes to help people build social capital, influence their social participation and helps them access increasingly privatised goods and services. Such ‘asset-based welfare’ has been fashionable in Western academic circles, considering the ways in which housing could become a real or potential welfare resource. It may not, however, be such a novel idea from an East Asian perspective since the promotion of home ownership has always been embedded in the wider context of welfare provision in many parts of the region. Despite the argument that an increasing level of home ownership could potentially compensate for the erosion of family support, the sustainability of a home-ownership-based welfare approach has been questioned. At the forefront of ‘post-growth’ societies with societal ageing, recession, housing price volatility and neoliberal policy reforms, using Japan as a case study, this article examines the reasons and conditions behind the lack of success in commonly identified strategies of asset-based welfare in a regional context. The policy-driven market failures which supersede the cultural obstacles require re-examination.