Airspace development – tackling London’s housing shortage

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The government is backing the development of new rooftop homes in London and across the UK. This presents new opportunities for developers and will alleviate the capital’s existing housing shortage.

London’s rooftops could provide 14.5 million square metres of potential space for new airspace developments, which could translate into approximately 180,000 new homes, according to research carried out by Apex Airspace Developments in 2016. This is an effective and innovative way of alleviating the existing housing shortages in the capital, as well as assisting both private freeholders and public bodies to save on roof replacement programmes and add value to the overall building.

The government has provided almost £500 million for 11,000 airspace developments across England and is currently backing a pioneering project to build such rooftop properties in a number of London locations, including Tooting, Wanstead, Walthamstow, Putney and Wallington. The £9 million funding deal between Homes England, the new national housing agency, and Apex Airspace Developments serves as a recent example, which is bound to deliver 78 rooftop homes in three years. The properties in question will be largely constructed off-site before being hauled on top of buildings, in order to minimise the disruption to existing residents. Such developments are now permitted under a revised planning rulebook that encourages authorities to promote the use the airspace above existing residential and commercial premises for new homes.

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, claims that the Government has now removed the cap on how much councils can borrow to build more and is investing £2 billion of long term funding to help housing associations deliver. With the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, supporting rooftop developments and the GLA including airspace in its draft London Plan, this suggests a more substantial approach towards solving the housing crisis.

Housing providers continue to be confronted by budget shortfalls, increased demand, shortage of affordable housing, labour constraints and a lack of available land for new homes. However, there is a change in sentiment with housing associations being given more flexibility to use their funding across development programmes and respond quickly to local housing demand and a changing market. This opens up new opportunities for airspace developments across London, as well as the rest of the UK, and should spur developers to consider this effective alternative.

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