London garage space could free up room for 16,000 new homes

More than 16,000 new homes could be built across London on land occupied by unused or rundown garages owned by councils, according to new research.

A study of local authority-owned lock-ups in the capital revealed 24 councils own a total of 53,640 – with 41 per cent empty or in disrepair.

Demolishing them and replacing them with affordable one-bedroom flats could go someway to solving the London housing crisis where the average home now costs £475,000.

The figures were revealed in a Freedom of Information request by property crowdfunding platform Property Partner.

Researchers worked out that the 22,000 empty council-owned garages in London covered a total of eight million square feet.

If they were replaced with developments made up of 500 sq/ft flats, it is estimated 16,000 affordable homes could be built.

The London Assembly says between 49,000 and 80,000 new homes are needed each year to cope with the projected population growth of a million in the next ten years.

Dan Gandesha, CEO of Property Partner, said: “This is just a snapshot of publicly owned land in London which is clearly surplus to requirement, underused or undeveloped.

“When we have a crisis in affordable housing not just in the capital but in the UK, it begs the question whether councils in Britain should either sell off the land for development or build new homes themselves.

“If a significant number of council garages, which are part of housing estates, are not even rented to those who should have a right to them – local authority tenants – then it could be argued that this is a wasted opportunity.”

The worst offending boroughs are Ealing, Havering, Brent and Enfield, which have respectively 74 per cent (1,480 empty garages), 72 per cent (1,469), 71 per cent (1,234) and 70 per cent (2,008) lying idle.

Southwark Council, which owns the highest number of garages (6,624) in the capital, has 1,891 standing empty (29%).

If all its lock-ups in Southwark, where the average home costs £525,000, were turned into single-storey one-bed flats, the total square footage would potentially equate to at least 1,989 new homes.

Mr Gandesha added: “There’s an even bigger opportunity here to ameliorate the severe shortfall in housing stock.

“Consider how much land Transport for London, Network Rail, the NHS, the Ministry of Defence and other government departments and agencies own.

“In the face of a residential property shortage, the former head of the UK Civil Service Lord Kerslake described this as one of the ‘biggest public policy failures of the last fifty years’.

“Although, making better use of underused council garages is not the absolute solution, it could seriously help alleviate the capital’s affordable housing crisis.”

Privately-owned garages have proven themselves to be valuable assets in the property market in recent years.

The average price paid for a garage at Savills Auctions last year was a staggering £368,000 – which is 70 per cent more than the cost of the average home in England and Wales.

The most expensive garage was in Chelsea, which sold for £670,000 in what is believed to be a record for a garage in the capital.

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