Speculation has already been swirling and now the idea that some offices may stand empty even after the end of lockdown has been confirmed by a business heavyweight. The City of London Corporation has revealed its plans to turn empty offices and other unfilled buildings in London’s Square Mile into 1,500 new homes by 2030.
It’s not just a London phenomenon either. News that a town centre office building in Scarborough is to be converted into 55 apartments and almost 100 flats are to replace offices used by Nottingham City Council also broke in April 2021.
Converting offices into homes is not a new concept, as property developers have been allowed to do this without getting full planning permission since 2015, under the permitted development rights system. Now, instead of the odd vacant office here and there, the glut of unfilled space can’t be ignored or underutilised – especially as many companies pursue work-from-home business models, while others downsize to smaller premises to accommodate flexi working patterns.
In addition, the collapse of the High Street, which dovetailed with Covid, has increased the amount of vacant premises – with stores including Top Shop, BHS, House of Fraser and Debenhams leaving unfilled chasms in town centres. If the lead is taken by The City of London Corporation, others will follow and we may see the UK’s residential housing shortage filled by the commercial and retail sector. It’s a movement we are tracking with interest at ARPM, with the possible result a deluge of homes destined for the private rental sector.
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