The lack of housing is a worldwide crisis. In 2005 the UN attempted a global survey which estimated 100 million people were homeless. Habitat for Humanity in 2015 released a report that 1.6 billion people “lacked adequate housing”. No attempt has been tried since 2005, as the UN found it almost impossible to get worldwide cooperation. What we do know is people are moving out of rural landscapes looking for jobs, and with conflicts around the world, refugees are moving to other countries to find sanctuary, and cities have always been the places where people hope to make a new start.
Whether everyone appreciates it or not, those on low or middle incomes find it almost impossible to live in the city where their job is. There is no denying that wages certainly haven’t increased in line with taxes, living expenses and rents. Urban areas only have a finite quantity of housing available, and since the beginning of time the consequence of this is the price of accommodation increases.
The ongoing Covid-19 situation has wreaked havoc on the economic sector with shops, restaurants and hotels in lockdown, and unfortunately for some, going out of business leaving buildings empty and unused.
But there is some hope. Globally there are some projects not only in progress, but also completed, that have taken vacant buildings (for example offices and hotels) and turned them into studio and one bedroom affordable apartments.
This concept isn’t new, it is just that, so far, not many people see the vision of its potential or the investment prospective. For instance, the office blocks of the 60’s & 70’s, which are no longer suitable for today’s corporate companies, could be quite easily converted into residential dwellings. These typically have a smaller footprint than more modern buildings, which means most could be converted, allowing natural light into all the conversion areas, whereas more modern buildings have a larger footprint, and subsequently may not have adequate natural light towards the core areas.
The exciting thing is that, by extending the life of existing buildings by repurposing in this manner, means that the environmental impact plummets in comparison to demolishing and rebuilding. This in turn could rejuvenate areas within a town or city, which have long become almost deserted, as the buildings lose their appeal for the corporate world. If the demand is there, services, shops and the rest of the related infrastructure will follow.