Empty shop floors could curb lack of housing

HUNDREDS of homes could be created above shops in the historic heart of one of the North of England’s property hotspots to address a critical shortage of affordable housing.

A study commissioned by York Council has revealed that up to 800 homes or small-scale office and retail spaces could be created in the redundant upper floors above shops in the city centre.

The research by the North of England Civic Trust has highlighted a growing need to diversify the city centre economy by creating a wave of new homes which would help reduce a reliance on cars and curb air pollution which is blighting York. The new homes would also reinvigorate the centre of York at a time when the traditional High Street retail sector is facing up to massive challenges from online shopping.

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The council’s cabinet member for health, housing and adult social care, Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing, said: “Supporting the conversion of existing properties is not only exploiting a sustainable building resource, but will provide much-needed homes in the heart of the city, bring additional business to city-centre retailers by adding to the resident population, generate additional income streams for owners from rents and also help the conservation of the architecturally-important historic core.”

The study has shown about 36 per cent of upper floors are not fully used in the historic centre of York. Even after reducing this figure by 75 per cent to take account of margins of error and constraints on the suitability of some buildings for conversion, the study still concludes there is the potential to create up to 800 one-bedroom flats which could house 1,000 to 1,500 people – or a similar number of smaller-scale offices.

The National Housing Federation’s latest data has shown the average property price in York was £201,331 in 2011 compared to the regional average of £155,303, while the average wage in the city is just £20,420.