Call to convert empty council garages into homes

New figures show councils sitting on 22,000 empty garages across London – potentially the equivalent of at least 16,000 new homes.

garage door

Councils are sitting on more than 22,000 empty garages in London, with total local authority stock equivalent to at least 16,000 homes if converted into the average one-bed flat.

But that number would possibly increase by at least fourfold to more than 64,400 new properties if four-storey apartment blocks were built in a viable location.

According to new research by property crowdfunding platform Property Partner, 41% of garages are either empty or in disrepair.

The data, obtained from Freedom Information requests, revealed 24 out of London’s 32 councils own 53,640 lock-up garages in the capital.

FoI requests were submitted to all 32 London boroughs (excluding the City of London).

Twenty-four provided data that was complete and/or without discrepancies. Six boroughs no longer owned garages or had outsourced to housing associations (Westminster, Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames, Merton, Bromley, and Bexley).

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

Interestingly, the research also shows that on average only 45% of those garages rented out are actually let to council tenants.

For example, the London Borough of Brent rents out just one in ten of its lock-ups to its own tenants.

By contrast, Lewisham which has 90% (1,920) occupancy of its garages has let out the majority (94%) to council tenants.

However, 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 were turned into single-storey one-bed flats, the total square footage would potentially equate to at least 1,989 new homes (if it was feasible for them to be built).

Researchers at Property Partner calculated that the total square footage of council-owned garages in London was more than eight million.

That’s the average size of a council owned garage – almost 150 square feet – multiplied by the number of garages in each London borough.

Assuming the garages would be replaced with flats if the councils decided to sell the land for development or build affordable homes themselves, the total square footage in each borough was then divided by the average square foot (499.4 sq ft) for a one-bed flat in the UK.

 

The following table shows the 24 London councils that replied to the FOI requests, including the number of garages owned, were empty and the percentage let out to tenants:

London boroughs Number of council-owned garages Number of empty garages % of Empty Garages Number of rented garages % of rented garages let to council tenants Total sq ft of council-owned garages Total number of one-bed flats (avg 499.4 sq ft)
Ealing 2,008 1,480 74% 528 59% 301,200 603.1
Havering 2,054 1,469 72% 585 57% 308,100 616.9
Brent 1,729 1,234 71% 495 10% 259,350 519.3
Enfield 2,874 2,008 70% 866 63% 431,100 863.2
Greenwich 4,647 2,665 57% 1,982 92% 697,050 1395.8
Harrow 775 421 54% 354 36% 116,250 232.8
Barking and Dagenham 2,276 1,198 53% 1,078 43% 341,400 683.6
Haringey 2,019 867 43% 1,152 32% 302,850 606.4
Newham 2,635 1,119 42% 1,516 49% 395,250 791.4
Hounslow 2,111 883 42% 1,228 39% 316,650 634.1
Hackney 3,878 1,601 41% 1,706 60% 581,700 1164.8
Barnet 1,941 767 40% 1,174 32% 291,150 583.0
Camden 2,521 875 35% 1,646 59% 378,150 757.2
Islington 2,705 922 34% 1,783 47% 405,750 812.5
Hammersmith and Fulham 1,270 423 33% 847 79% 190,500 381.5
Redbridge 980 316 32% 664 n/a* 147,000 294.4
Croydon 3,026 924 31% 2,102 34% 453,900 908.9
Southwark 6,624 1,891 29% 4,733 87% 993,600 1989.6
Hillingdon 2,597 574 22% 2,023 44% 389,550 780.0
Sutton 1,074 190 18% 884 52% 161,100 322.6
Tower Hamlets 1,324 153 12% 1171 n/a* 198,600 397.7
Kensington and Chelsea 449 47 10% 402 91% 67,350 134.9
Lewisham 2,123 203 10% 1,920 94% 318,450 637.7
Lambeth 2,257 19 1% 2,238 50% 338,550 677.9
TOTAL 53,640 22,230 30839 8,046,000 16,111
AVERAGE 2,332 967 41% 1341 55%

Source: research by Property Partner  

Dan Gandesha, CEO of Property Partner said: “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.

“But 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.”

Comments