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Empty properties
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Tim Lund


Posts: 255
Joined: Apr 2008
Post: #1
14-01-2013 11:46 PM

Rather than tag this onto that other thread, I thought I'd start another, albeit still related to housing, but referring back to a comment jgdoherty made

Quote:
There are several pieces of legislation in place where the intent is to reduce the numbers of un-inhabited housing units, but it may the case that their ineffectiveness is measured by the persistently large numbers.


I also put this on the Sydenham Town Forum, as a a spin off from discovering, while trying to work out how new housing helped maintain services in Lewisham, that in the year to Oct 12, no empty properties in Lewisham were brought into occupation - which would have helped just as much as new build. I'm a bit doubtful about this number, but as it stands it suggests either that there really aren't any empty homes other than ones only temporarily empty, or that Lewisham officers are not very good at getting empty homes into use. But to put this into perspective, I've produced some charts, comparing Lewisham with other London boroughs, first looking at total numbers of empty properties, and then this as a percentage of empty properties as reported in the GLA Datastore





Lewisham may not be doing well, but it's far from the worst.

There's a chart for total vacancy rates from the same GLA databank since 1991, which shows the rate in London declining by more than 50% since a peak in 1993. What interests me about this is that I believe this has been a time when the private rental sector has expanded significantly, with a fair amount of 'buy-to-let' investment money going into the sector. The fact that vacancy rates have fallen so much makes the idea that buy-to-let investors are worsening the housing shortage in London fairly implausible.

This post was last modified: 14-01-2013 11:47 PM by Tim Lund.

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Tim Lund


Posts: 255
Joined: Apr 2008
Post: #2
20-01-2013 02:05 PM

I've been contacted by Lewisham officers to say that the issue of no emtpy homes being brought into use has been

Quote:
investigated ... and Lewisham Council have ( over the period in question ) facilitated bringing a considerable number of properties back into use. These statistics have been reported to CLG but as yet they have not been published. We are contacting CLG to find out the reason for this. Hopefully this will result in the correct figures being published shortly. In the meantime I can assure you the Council put considerable effort into dealing with empty properties and this will be reflected eventually in the published figures.


These numbers are clearly important, since funding depends on them, so I assume they have to be thoroughly checked, and properly documented; my guess is that somehow there are glitches in this process, which I imagine would be of concern to the DCLG as much as to local authorities such as Lewisham and ordinary citizens such as myself. Let's hope we can identify how Lewisham could get its proper funding allocation!

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Tim Lund


Posts: 255
Joined: Apr 2008
Post: #3
22-01-2013 11:43 PM

This story in the Standard, about making it easier to convert unused office buildings to residential seems sensible to me.

Quote:
Ministers are to announce that developers will be allowed to convert the blocks without seeking permission from councils in a move that property experts said would have a “profound impact” on London.

Property experts said the change in planning rules could unleash a flood of applications to turn hundreds of disused or part-empty commercial buildings into flats that could help ease the capital’s housing crisis. Vacancy rates in commercial buildings are three times higher than in the residential sector.


On the face of it, there's a contradiction here, since if developers are "allowed to convert the blocks without seeking permission" as in the first paragraph, why would there be any applications flooding in in second paragraph? I suspect getting permission would still be required to ensure certain basic standards, but not for the change of use.

I find it curious that there's one expert quoted saying that "if too much retail and commercial is lost a place quickly gets a dormitory feel to it", when I'd have thought unused office space makes somewhere look even more run down. Rather than try to second guess the market, I'd have thought planners would do better to demand flexibility of future use in any applications, so that neighbourhoods don't get stuck with office space, retail space or residential space as needs change, which can't be easily changed into another use, and not look awful. It would be better to have professional architects working on how to do this, than professional planners making the process being more inflexible by insisting on current planning use classes.

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