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