Could our town and city centres provide the answer to the shortage of housing?

It has been hard to avoid the recent headlines around the plight of Britain’s high streets, with high-profile brands such as House of Fraser and Debenhams most recently hitting the headlines due to store closures. In the midst of the commercial chaos, however, there may be a silver lining for property as a new report has shown that vacant units in towns and cities could be used to deliver 45,000 new homes.

The recently published report from planning and development consultancy Turley, has indicated that a proactive mixed-use development strategy could be key in addressing the current housing crisis. A conservative estimate of 45,000 new homes could be delivered by using existing vacant spaces, whilst more homes could be created if the height of buildings was less restricted.

“Securing the future of our town centres is a critical national issue and one that is rightly getting a lot of attention. These centres are vital to residents, communities and businesses alike and are engines of economic growth. It is vital that these areas are allowed to evolve and that the planning system is match fit to support this,” said Richard Laming, senior director, head of economics, at Turley.

“Our report is an attempt to put forward a positive vision for the future amidst the negativity that currently dominates the conversation. This starts with debunking the myth that the high street is dead,” he added.

Of course, if these spaces are converted into living spaces, then the key will be balance between high street and habitation. Each city centre will have to be carefully considered ensuring that there isn’t too much infringement upon the commercial sector, whilst also providing suitable homes. With first-time buyers now in the strongest position to buy for decades, there will be many younger buyers to whom living in the heart of a city will be an extremely attractive prospect.

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