Community-driven spaces top of the list for London's empty properties

Like many cities across the UK, London continues to see businesses move away from the high street due to the rising costs associated with maintaining physical premises and as a result, more and more empty properties are springing up across the city. New research has revealed what Londoners most want for these potential 'meanwhile' spaces.

Related topics:  Commercial,  Empty Homes,  Meanwhile Spaces,  Community
Property | Reporter
27th March 2023
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"Empty spaces across the city are a great opportunity for meanwhile use and the projects can have huge benefits for local communities, landlords and councils"

New field research on a number of London boroughs carried out by The Utilize Project, has revealed what Londoners think should be done with empty spaces in their local boroughs and who could benefit from their development.

Meanwhile spaces are when vacant properties are rented on a temporary basis at a lower cost than standard rates, to help landowners avoid the empty space tax. The Utilize Project manage and rent out properties of this type, allowing them to provide affordable and highly sought-after space to community groups and small businesses that cannot compete with London’s high commercial rent.

The answers provided by locals suggest that over half of the boroughs surveyed do not have a strong sense of community and would benefit from community-driven spaces.

Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham and Sutton all reported a lack of community feel, showing the importance of the development of empty spaces to support community growth.

The boroughs which reported a strong sense of community (Camden, Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Westminster) still acknowledged that more community spaces would provide valuable opportunities for those living in the areas.

The locals offered suggestions for how they’d like to see the empty spaces used in their area. The most popular of which was co-working/office space, with people in four of the boroughs surveyed (Islington, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets and Westminster) suggesting this was a good use of space.

With many people now working from home full-time after the pandemic, it’s easy to see why this choice may be popular, as it would provide facilities for those who do not have an ideal setup at home.

Other popular themes included using empty spaces to improve community health through gyms and fitness facilities, with three boroughs highlighting this option.

Opening community and youth centres, and developing multi-faith spaces, to allow those with different religious beliefs to come together as one community were also popular.

Those questioned explained that everyone could benefit from more community-based spaces within the city. Responses showed that youths, young adults, professionals and faith groups were those who would benefit the most from newly developed spaces.

Mahmud Shahnawaz, founder of The Utilize Project, explains: “Empty spaces across the city are a great opportunity for meanwhile use and the projects can have huge benefits for local communities, landlords and councils. They help community groups and SMEs who initially wouldn’t be able to afford the capital’s sky-high rent and fill spaces which could otherwise fall victim to crime and anti-social behaviour.

“Meanwhile spaces use temporary contracts allowing community groups, small businesses, or individuals to move into vacant spaces and set up shop. As empty spaces result in a hefty fee, meanwhile spaces are rented out at a reduced price, which also helps the landlord to avoid the empty space tax.”

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