Plymouth has been held up as an example of good practice for its work on Empty Homes in newly published national research.
The research – Affordable Homes From Empty Commercial Spaces – published by Empty Homes (a national campaigning charity) and funded by the Nationwide Foundation, features a number of case studies, including Hoegate House, which was the former job centre which underwent a £3.5m refurbishment thanks to a partnership between the Homes and Communities Agency, the charity Chapter 1, and Plymouth City Council.
The Empty Homes agency is now calling on local authorities to look at making better use of empty commercial properties as a way of addressing the housing shortage, improving the vibrancy of the local environment, and reducing the blight of empty buildings that can be subject to vandalism and anti-social behaviour.
Councillor Steve Ricketts, Cabinet Member for Transport and Housing for Plymouth City Council, said: “We are absolutely committed to making better use of our empty buildings in Plymouth and using them to create more housing, so we are delighted to be featured in this new report by Empty Homes.
“The former job centre on Hoegate Street in Plymouth – which had been empty for ten years but has been successfully converted into 30 affordable flats – is a great example of what can be achieved when all the different partners work together.
“Since 2015 we have already brought 83 empty Plymouth homes into use are now working to make sure we make more new homes using existing empty buildings.”
Other areas featured in the report include Bury St Edmunds, Maidstone, Lewisham, Camden and Croydon and renovations include a former warehouse, an old pub, disused offices, an empty hotel, and a parade of old shops.
Report author Helen Williams from Empty Homes, said: “Our research showed that contrary to popular belief, dealing with structural issues to create suitable housing from former commercial property is not the main barrier. The bigger issue is in fact engaging owners of empty commercial property to recognise and realise the potential of their asset in ways that they often do not think exist or can easily be overlooked when the day job is running a business or in the context of a large property portfolio.
“One major target must be to raise awareness among owners that they can work with councils and other housing providers to bring commercial properties back into use in a way that supports their business goals, while enabling the work of those seeking to create homes for people priced out of decent housing in the area.”
You can read the full report online here.