Posted on 16th August 2013

Empty Offices will be Turned into Homes

Empty offices and shops can be converted into new homes following a move by the Government to spruce up our town and city centres and increase housing stock. The conversion of office space to residential use has been allowed under Permitted Development in England, meaning a planning application is no longer necessary.

The move represents a radical overhaul of the planning system, as getting permission to convert an office block to residential use has been prohibitively expensive. That is why many such schemes fail even to get off the starting blocks and why office space is all too often left vacant due to developers being tangled up in bureaucracy.

Would-be office converters should be aware, however, that there are limitations in that any external work will require planning permission. In addition, the rights offered by the new legislation do not extend to listed buildings and certain areas in the capital are exempt. Also, bear in mind that commercial space wasnt designed for people to live in, so there could be areas that present problems, including low ceilings.

Original features that you think are full of character may have to be stripped out to conform to modern building regulations. It may indeed be simpler to look at properties that were once residential but have undergone a conversion in recent years. These kinds of properties present a much more straightforward project as many of the original features may still be in place, but may be hidden behind modern plastering or other decoration.

The new rules will certainly help to kick-start the pool of homes available to both the private residential and rental sectors. At present, the number of households needing a home will outstrip demand by 750,000 in 2025 if building rates continue on the same downward trajectory as they have done for the past two decades, according to the latest statistics from the IPPR think tank. There will be between 206,000 and 282,000 additional households per year between 2013 and 2025, it has forecast.

Statistics from the department for Communities and Local Government also show that the estimated potential for conversion of vacant offices in our region alone stands at seven per cent of offices long-term empty. Many towns and cities have swathes of empty office blocks, warehouse and business parks that could be put to very good use as residential housing where space is currently at a premium. By unshackling developers from bureaucratic planning, vacant office units can be turned into enough new homes to jump-start housing supply. This will in turn help the construction sector, thereby providing a much-needed stimulus to the housing market.

For further information: call 01325 341 500.