Vacant commercial premises could provide up to 200,000 homes for the vulnerable, says Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity Great Britain, a charity focused on long-term poverty alleviation through affordable, social housing, has partnered with leading savings and investment company, M&G plc (M&G), to unveil exciting new research outlining how homelessness can be addressed by repurposing vacant commercial property around the UK.
The partnership between Habitat for Humanity and M&G is also set to launch a coalition of like-minded organisations to combat homelessness and pool knowledge and expertise to deliver homes. M&G will provide insight and expertise to support Habitat for Humanity GB with the conversion of properties in London and Glasgow. Organisations across all sectors will be invited to join the coalition to help with the challenges around the provision of much-need social housing in the UK.
Funded by M&G and produced by The Empty Homes Network, ‘Repurposing Empty Spaces to Prevent Homelessness in the UK’ reveals that circa 19,500 homes could be created in the UK through repurposing vacant local authority premises alone.
With the trend for home working amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, an estimated 16,000 homes could be created from the conversion of vacant, publicly-owned office space across the UK – a number which could increase if local authority-owned business premises which have lain empty for less than 12 months are also taken into account. Empty retail space could be recycled to provide a further 3,500 residential units.
The research also states that around 165,000 privately-owned commercial and business premises remain empty across Great Britain, which could potentially provide a partial solution to the current social housing crises. Further, the research highlights that the number of empty homes and empty second homes has risen to its highest level since records began, with an estimated 650,000 residential dwellings vacant and under-utilised, across England, Scotland and Wales.
Tum Kazunga, CEO at Habitat for Humanity Great Britain, explains: “Habitat for Humanity has a vision that everyone deserves a decent place to live, regardless of geography. While for many years our focus has been to alleviate housing poverty in Africa and Asia, our Great Britain projects are a significant, and growing, aspect of our work. Here, our main goals are to develop new homes and bring innovative ideas to the table that peers and partners can use to provide more affordable and social housing. This research sheds some light on how a lot more can be done in the UK to increase the amount of available social housing. With the Covid-19 pandemic leading to 20,000 new households becoming homeless in England alone, there is clearly urgent need for action.
“Having already garnered support from some fantastic names such as Lloyds of London, Miller Homes and the charities End Youth Homelessness and Rock Trust, we are working hard to secure the support of many more businesses ahead of the official launch of the coalition later this year.”
“Partnerships, such as this one with M&G, can help us shed light on current challenges, and the potential solutions available. We hope to see further interest in this coalition from academia, peers, and businesses, all joined by a common purpose to help more people access a decent place to call home.”
Additional partnerships with Habitat for Humanity International and Habitat for Humanity Poland, will see future phases of the research extended to other countries such as Poland, shedding further light on these issues and providing new ways to solve them.
Alex Greaves, Head of Residential Investment at M&G Real Estate, adds: “We are delighted to be partnering with Habitat for Humanity so we can play our part in helping to alleviate the social housing crisis in the UK. We have a lot of relevant experience across our business, which will hopefully help the partnership to effect some real change and deliver more social housing.”