In an effort to relieve Britain’s housing shortage and to boost the building industry, the UK government is planning to unshackle dormant offices and transform them into new homes.
For the past two years, house building hit a record low of 129,000 homes, the lowest since 1924.
The government believes that one of the key obstacles in increasing house supply in the country is the lack of land and buildings available for residential development or conversion.
Communities Secretary Erik Pickles said that many towns and cities have office blocks, warehouse and business parks that are lying unnecessarily empty. According to Decentralisation and Planning Minister Greg Clark, patterns of office use have changed as employers prefer large open plan spaces to individual offices and as more and more people work from home.
The latest commercial vacancy rate of 7 to 9 percent suggested that commercial land is oversupplied. Pickles said that if all the long term office space currently available was converted into residential homes, it could deliver 250,000 new homes and save just under £140M ($228M) over ten years in unnecessary red tape costs.
The Government has already taken action to help increase availability of land and housing supply. This includes the New Homes Bonus, Community Infrastructure Levy and measures in the Localism Bill including Neighbourhood Plans, the Community Right to Build, and the Community Right to Buy.
In addition, Ministers have announced a full review of national planning policy by 2012, and a commitment to reduce regulations on house builders, including the introduction of a local standards framework. The Homes and Communities Agency is also examining how the disposal of publicly owned land can be used for housing.