Empty retail space could be used to bring 25,000 homes to market

THE demise of many high street retailers has left empty premises with enough space to provide nearly 25,000 homes across the UK to a market value of £7.4 billion, according to new research.

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

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

Keller Williams explained that the average UK property comes in at just 790 square feet, meaning that this redundant retail bricks and mortar could pave the way for a potential 24,981 new homes.

It added that, with the current average UK new build valued at £297,104, the vacant space offers potential for £7.4 billion worth of new homes that could be delivered to the market – providing a considerable boost to stock supply.

The biggest contributor to this space is Debenhams. Their extensive high street presence sees them occupy 13,628,740 square feet of retail space – enough for 17,252 homes with a current market value of £5.1 billion, according to Keller Williams.

CEO of Keller Williams, Ben Taylor, commented, “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.”