Forget Boris’s Brick and Ed’s housing tricks – start with our empty homes, say Nick Kalms and Benjamin Radstone of YouSpotProperty.com
Both Labour and the Conservatives, have in their own unique way, tried to address Britain’s housing crises recently.
Boris Johnson alludes to one billion bricks needed to get a sizable housing stock to families-in-need while Ed Miliband has upset 250,000 homeowners with the threat of a mansion tax – which might affect more Londoners than anywhere else in the country.
All our political parties, however, overlook our estimated 845,000 empty or derelict homes. There are numerous reasons why these properties blight our neighbourhoods. London’s property bubble has only exacerbated the problem as fewer people can afford to purchase an expensive wreck of a house which then needs refurbishment.
The issue with these sorts of empty or derelict properties is that they don’t generally come in clusters, complete blocks of flats or entire areas, but rather, they are the one and two odd properties in your nearby street which is why there’s been no general consensus to tackle the issue.
The solution lies in refurbishment and not conversion. The effect of mass conversion of London homes has left inhabitants with ever-shrinking living space and paper-thin walls. Refurbishment offers less interruption, reduced noise, uses existing infrastructure such as plumbing and electrics, whereas new builds, especially larger developments, blocks off and digs up roads and creates major interruption to the local area.
We’ve seen three London boroughs, namely Harrow, Camden and the City of London increase their numbers of long term empty and derelict homes in 2013.
Councils are partly to blame in putting these properties back into use – even those which are owned by them – as they require robust research teams to find the owners and implore them to do something about getting their properties back into use.
London needs more houses. Too many new-build homes in the capital offer insufficient space. We’ve lost kitchens – an extra room in the house – as savvy housebuilders add cabinet units to ever-shrinking living rooms. Many of our older housing stock, if put back into use, could provide superb, spacious and character-filled homes for families wanting to stay and work in the capital.
We need to act on this now by using our existing homes, before introducing unfair taxation or building houses that would rather fit into a tardis.
Nick Kalms and Benjamin Radstone are directors of YouSpotProperty.com, a website specialising in acquiring and returning unoccupied and dilapidated homes back into use around London.