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Lucy Alexander leaning against a door in a blue jacket smiling.

Deserted and derelict: TV property expert Lucy Alexander backs calls to revive UK’s ‘hidden gems’.

19 Mar 2024 | 3 min

More than half of Brits are encountering derelict and unloved buildings every week – with 20% seeing or walking by them every single day.

This comes as analysis from property lender Together finds, as of 2023, there is a total of 1.55m residential homes worth £531bn that stand empty across England and Wales1. These homes are registered as completely ‘abandoned’ – with no usual or short-term residents in place, or use as a second home; without any clarity on plans for sale or redevelopment. Close to one in five empty homes (18%) have been vacant for at least 6 months2.

With the UK’s major housing crisis in mind and fact that 46% of people feel the number of abandoned or derelict buildings in their local city is getting worse – Together’s analysis finds there are over 240,000 abandoned detached homes – worth £123bn. There are also just under 260,000 empty semi-detached homes and nearly 680,000 flats and apartments standing empty across England and Wales.

The top three regions where the volume of empty properties is rising is led by the South West of England at 20%, the East of England at 16% and East Midlands at 15%. And, while Wales has seen the volume decrease by 13% in recent years; there are still over 90,000 abandoned properties across the country.

Indeed, 36% believe addressing the crisis of the UK’s abandoned and derelict homes should sit high up on the Government’s Levelling Up agenda, second only to the cost of living.

But it’s not just empty residential properties people are seeing. A significant 79% of the UK are regularly seeing or walking past abandoned commercial and civic buildings too.

With ministers set to launch a package of housing reforms, including a focus on new planning rules to allow the transformation of commercial buildings into housing, Together’s research highlights the scale of the problem – as well as the growing calls to push the issue to the top of the political agenda ahead of this year’s General Election.

Bringing her decades of experience, TV presenter and property expert, Lucy Alexander, is shining a light on the UK’s ‘Hidden Gems’ by spotlighting regions and cities where abandoned and derelict buildings are on the rise. Encouraging the public to see these derelict residential or commercial sites differently – in what is a significant piece to the UK housing puzzle.

In fact, 48% have already purchased or would consider buying or investing in an abandoned building to renovate it. A further 10% are keen to pursue plans provided the right finance is in place, with 4% planning to do so this year. Post-refurbishment, moving into properties for residential use and renting out these properties are of most interest – both at 34%. A quarter already have or would sell on refurbished and restored abandoned buildings.

Elliot Vure, corporate director at Together, said: “There’s a clear case for addressing and solving the UK’s abandoned and crumbling properties, as our research makes clear. Part of the solution could be turning old and disused building into much needed homes – although this is by no means a magic bullet. However, it should be a matter of civic pride that we don’t have these towering eyesores as a feature of our towns and cities.

“Although many are way past their best, buildings such these can offer a huge amount of potential for investors and developers with a vision to restore them back to their former glory or repurpose them. There also needs to be greater incentives to encourage home-buyers and investors to make the most of more than 1.55million empty homes across England and Wales.

“In both cases, we need a joined up and pragmatic approach from the property industry and Government allowing us to reap the rewards of wider economic benefits, while preserving our architectural heritage and creating places for people to live.”

Lucy Alexander, Hidden Gems Campaign Ambassador, said: “Throughout my TV career, I’ve seen my fair share of once-loved-now-neglected properties; some of which can quickly become an eyesore for local residents.

“It’s a real shame especially as so many people struggle to find affordable housing options and get that first foot onto the property ladder to begin with. Spotting those property ‘hidden gems’ can really help potential buyers and developers open the doors to a newfound building opportunity – be it for housing, the creation of a new business or restorative project. So many existing sites today could see their former glory restored and new purpose given if the right support can be put in place.”

Lucy Alexander is ambassador for the UK wide Hidden Gems campaign – which is backed by property lender Together. Lucy Alexander’s partnership with the Hidden Gems campaign seeks to raise awareness of the scope and scale of the UK’s abandoned and derelict buildings highlighting opportunities for restoration and redevelopment as a means to open doors to would-be homeowners and developers across our major cities, preserving our heritage and provide exciting opportunities for future generations.

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