Defunct retail buildings could provide 25,000 homes

Losses in the retail sector could provide 25,000 residential homes worth £7.4bn, providing a much-needed boost to UK housing supply.

UK estate agent Keller Williams analysed the potential square footage of thousands of high street stores used by 38 big retail brands that have ceased trading, or that are due to close this year.

Debenhams alone could provide 17,252 homes if stores were converted, as the store has already liquidated 52 stores, with the remaining 45 to close by 15th May this year

Other notable companies shutting down are Arcadia Group, with brands including Topshop and Dorothy Perkins (1,223), as well as Peacocks (1,175).

Ben Taylor, chief executive of Keller Williams UK, said: “It’s been incredibly sad to see the demise of the high street hastened due to the pandemic, with many big names shutting their doors for good having been unable to survive months on end with no customer footfall.

“Hopefully, as lockdown restrictions continue to ease we will see a resurgence from the retail sector and some of these former premises can once again be used as intended. However, it’s becoming abundantly clear that we simply don’t shop in the same way we used to and so physical retail outlets are likely to remain largely redundant in many high streets up and down the nation.

“At the same time, we’re seeing a lack of housing stock failing to satisfy the appetites of UK homebuyers, while housebuilders and the government continue to fail year on year in meeting delivery targets.

“Developing unused retail space into housing could be a great way of repopulating our high streets, if only from a social standpoint, while also delivering some sorely needed housing stock to the market.”

Based on the average square footage of A1 retail space (2,195 sq ft), Keller Williams estimates that these ongoing closures will leave some 19,735,230 square foot of unused retail space across the UK.

With the average UK property coming in at just 790 square feet, this redundant retail bricks and mortar could pave the way for a potential 24,981 new homes.

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