There has been some interesting research from Property Partner, a property investment company, on the astonishing number of empty garages owned by councils in London.
They own more than 53,000 lock-up garages in the capital – but 41 per cent are empty or in disrepair.
The worst offending boroughs are Ealing, Havering, Brent, and Enfield. These have respectively 74 per cent (1,480 empty garages), 72 per cent (1,469), 71 per cent (1,234) and 70 per cent (2,008) of their total garages lying idle, according to the data from FOI requests.
Southwark Council has 1,891 standing empty, Greenwich 2,665. My own Council of Hammersmith and Fulham has 423.
Property Partner calculated that the total square footage of council-owned garages in London is more than eight million: the average size of a council-owned garage – almost 150 square feet – multiplied by the number of garages in each London borough. That’s enough space for 16,111 new homes. It may well be that in some cases replacing garages with new homes would not be viable. On the other hand, their figures only allow for bungalows. Often, of course, it would be perfectly viable to replace a row of garages with two, three or four storey housing.
Furthermore of those garages that are rented out, only 45 per cent are rented to council tenants and leaseholders. Most are rented out privately – that provides a useful source of revenue for the councils. But would it not be better to convert some of those garages into homes too?
Islington Council owns 922 empty garages. Let us hope that before Jeremy Corbyn has the nerve to attack the Government’s housing record again he takes the time to ask his local Labour colleagues about this scandal.