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MPs think converting empty space above shops could help deliver housing

Words: Laura Edgar
Empty space abot shops / iStock-459010761

Research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has suggested that 90 per cent of MPs think converting empty spaces above shops could help ‘reverse’ the housing shortage.

A survey by the FMB also highlights that 89 per cent of MPs say converting such spaces into homes could boost local growth in their area, while 86 per cent think it could have a positive impact on the vibrancy of their town centres.  

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said that an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 homes could be created by converting empty spaces above shops.

“This is space just waiting to be turned into residential accommodation. The fact that 90 per cent of MPs of all parties recognise the potential of our existing buildings to help solve the housing crisis means we need to be more imaginative if we are going to build the 300,000 homes a year that the chancellor pledged in last month’s Budget.”

Alongside the survey, the FMB published a report – Homes on Our High Streets.

Considering six case study towns – Bishop’s Stortford, Bridgend, Castleford, Harrow, Motherwell and Stratford-upon-Avon – the report notes that there is the potential to bring forward additional residential units across a wide range of building types in different urban settings.

To overcome challenges to development, the report makes a number of recommendations, including that local authorities should “explicitly make reference to building homes above shops on the high street within their various planning documents”.

It also recommends local authorities help find ways to overcome disparate ownership and limited building access and/ or infrastructure in order to make redevelopment of residential units easier.

Berry noted that the research highlights the opportunities that exist for creating new homes in a range of different building types.

“It demonstrates what could be achieved by innovative and ambitious development. The report puts councils at the heart of the solution.”

With the change of consumer habits and the rise of online shopping, “high streets are struggling to remain relevant,” he said. If not all space on high streets can be used for commercial reasons, “let’s make use of it for residential and help increase the supply of new homes”.

Homes on Our High Streets can be found on the Federation of Master Builders’ website (pdf).

Image credit | iStock