New life for Liverpool streets

Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group

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Published: 25th April 2017

This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group


In a new report published by Property Partner this month, the scale of ‘ghost homes’ in the UK has been revealed. It has been estimated that £43bn of empty housing occupies the UK’s major towns and cities, with Liverpool having the highest number of empty properties in the north west of England.

The property investment website used data from the Department of Communities and Local Government spanning the last ten years to produce a list of towns and cities in the UK with the largest proportion of long-term vacant housing stock.

Outside London, Birmingham was found to have the greatest proportion of empty housing with 4,397 empty properties around the city. This figure has dropped considerably since 2006 when it had around 8,000 empty homes. Similarly Liverpool – which had a staggering 8,357 empty homes in 2006 – is now thought to have around 3,500 empty homes, valued in the region of £1bn.     

These so-called ghost homes are believed to stand empty for a variety of reasons. Some are empty while in the process of sale or renovation, while others are the object of inheritance disputes, and still others are held onto in the hope of a rise in value – the so-called ‘buy-to-leave’ phenomenon that has left affluent parts of London virtually empty.

However, with councils having the power to seize vacant properties the number of empty homes in England has decreased by more than 36% over the last ten years.

But lobbyists are not satisfied that enough is being done to reduce the number of ghost homes in England, especially considering the current housing crisis. With more than 200,000 empty properties in England, campaigners want the government to do more.

Helen Williams, director of the charity Empty Homes, said: “We would like to see targeted Government investment that supports neighbourhood improvement approaches whereby local authorities work with community-led organisations and others to see the existing housing stock refurbished and to tackle the underlying causes of empty homes in these areas.”

However, in a landmark pilot scheme taking place right now, the number of ghost homes in Liverpool is set to reduce significantly.

A partnership between build-to-rent developers PlaceFirst and Liverpool City Council, will see the renovation of one of the city’s longest-standing mostly derelict areas – the Welsh Streets in Toxteth.

Previously earmarked for demolition, the neighbourhood – once the home of dockworkers – will see the conversion of up to 300 old properties into twenty-first century family homes.

Some terraces will be knocked ‘three-into-two’ to create larger, more spacious properties, more in keeping with modern open-plan lifestyles. Gone will be the dark Victorian alleyways and yards to be replaced by leafy avenues and community spaces. In a bid to attract renters, PlaceFirst will even give tenants the opportunity to personalise their homes – with a choice of decor and furnishings.

The terraces of the Welsh Streets, the birthplace of Beatle Ringo Starr, have been the subject of much campaigning over the last twenty years. Originally, 11 streets were targeted for demolition owing to a perceived over-supply of unfashionable terraced property. However, the scale of public opinion was unanticipated, as was the reluctance of Welsh Streets’ residents to leave, so alternative solutions were sought to secure the future of the neighbourhood.

Following an exclusivity deal signed with Liverpool City Council in January this year, PlaceFirst have moved forward at a rapid rate to secure the future of the historic streets.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has welcomed the regeneration project saying: “I pledged in January when we started work with PlaceFirst that we would start work as soon as detailed surveys had been completed.

“PlaceFirst have a great track record in regenerating old houses and I know they are genuinely excited about what they can do in the Welsh Streets.”

Wilf Larder, director of operations at PlaceFirst, said: “These new images show how the first phase of development has retained the rich heritage features of the Victorian terrace, whilst bringing the Welsh Streets into the 21st century with innovative remodelling and distinctive landscape features.

“We are confident that features such as the avenues will give this development something unique and provide a safe, attractive environment where neighbours can become friends and children can play.”

PlaceFirst have released a series of images for the new Welsh Streets which can be viewed here.  It is hoped the first of the new homes will be released to market this May.

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