Posted Saturday, June 8th, 2019

We’ve put this out in a blog before but it bears another look as it’s a good idea, and it’ll never stop being one – unused garages to help to ease London’s housing shortage.

There is regular talk about the best ways of upping housing supply in London, but new research has unveiled this unlikely solution. The data revealed that converting empty council-owned garages could help to create at least 16,000 new homes.

At a time when demand is outstripping supply in the capital, and the government’s various affordable housing schemes and housebuilding projects have come in for considerable criticism, innovative plans like the above are more needed than ever.

Taking into account all the empty garage space in London, a conservative estimate suggests that more than 16,000 new homes could be built if the land was repurposed into one-bed apartments. This, of course, would depend on a number of factors, including willingness by the council to sell the land to developers or develop the empty garage space themselves, as well as government approval and planning permission for such an initiative, but it’s certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.

What’s more, if four-storey apartment blocks could be built in viable locations – where these empty garages currently stand – then some 64,000 new properties could be made available across the capital.
Across the country, authorities are consistently trying to find new and inventive ways to increase housing stock. Making use of space – or buildings – that are already there is surely a pragmatic approach to take.

In London, the housing shortage is particularly acute, with a rising population inevitably leading to rising demand. At the same time, the supply of homes is not keeping pace. The London Assembly predicts that the capital requires between 49,000 and 80,000 homes per year to cope with the extra demand.

By 2026, London’s population is expected to grow by a million. Currently, however, less than half the required number of homes are being delivered. Some analysis even suggests that only a quarter of the homes needed annually are currently being built.

As things stand, these empty garages are being wasted. In many cases, they are not being rented out to the very people who are supposed to be using them – council tenants. If they serve no function and could be used for other purposes such as new housing, then this is surely one avenue that needs to be explored.

In the recent past, there have been suggestions of homes in underground car parks, churches being converted into housing and a revival of the prefab homes that followed WWII. This is the latest possible plan to help tackle London’s crisis, but it could be something that was extended across the rest of the country if successful. The idea of converting unused garage space into one-bed apartments doesn’t exactly sound outlandish, but how feasible this would be in reality is less clear-cut.

It’s certainly something councils across London should be considering.

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