City of London to convert offices to homes in post-Covid revamp
In an attempt to revive the Square Mile post-pandemic, the City of London Corporation is aiming to create 1,500 new homes by converting empty office space. The policy chair said the operational changes were being made in response to calls for flexible working. The new homes will be available by 2030.
Even as lockdown begins to ease, 78% of the workforce have indicated they'd prefer to WFH at least two days a week. The pandemic has left many city centres deserted as the government urged workers to work from home where possible.
The corporation says they're responding to the challenges of the new normal post-Covid through a mix of refurbishments of existing buildings and new schemes to meet its housing targets. These include at least 35% affordable housing, with the potential for higher levels where that proves viable.
With housebuilding continuing to fall short and many workers priced out of the housing market, it's a welcome initiative. The City is currently one of the most expensive places to live in the world, with rent accounting for 65% of the average salary.
The majority of housing stock in the City of London dates back to the 1960s, although the area itself dates back over 2,000 years. Dominated by financial services, there were just 7,850 residential units in March 2020, mostly in purpose-built estates.
The new proposals aim to respond to the changing need of businesses after the pandemic. Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said the body had been listening carefully to firms who want to remain committed to a central London hub but whose operation needs are inevitably changing in the face of Covid.
The plans aim to reflect trends towards hybrid and flexible forms of working. For example, long-term lets in empty office blocks could be offered to creatives, while the City is also keen to attract high potential tech-led businesses. To optimise its attractiveness to unicorn startups, the City is investing in full 5G coverage.
Square Mile evolution
McGuinness said the Square Mile had to evolve in a way that would provide an attractive environment, not just for workers but also learners, visitors and residents. With the pandemic accelerating moves to new ways of working, the City needed to adapt to the shakeup in routines. The new plans have a triple focus - fostering an innovative environment for talent and business, creating a vibrant offer to engage workers and visitors alike and delivering high quality and outstanding spaces for the benefit of all.
IWG, the world's largest provider of flexible workspace, has struck a deal with Standard Chartered Bank to provide its 95,000 employees with access to quality flexible office space across a range of UK cities and suburbs.
In addition to moves to make the City more attractive to the wider workforce, the Corporation is also looking at staging events and cultural activities, with plans for traffic-free weekends and all-night celebrations to lure in tourists.