Camden homeowners should sell air above properties to build new homes

Wilmott Place, Camden, NW1, before and after, Apex Housing Solutions

Wilmott Place, Camden, NW1, before and after, Apex Housing Solutions - Credit: Archant

Most homeowners are unaware of the potential to sell the rooftop airspace above their homes for development, but building on top of existing buildings could unlock hundreds of thousands of new homes, says a developer.

Abbey Road, Camden, before and after, Apex Housing

Abbey Road, Camden, before and after, Apex Housing - Credit: Archant

Using the space above public buildings could unlock 140,000 new homes in London and that number would increase significantly if privately owned residences are included in the calculations says niche rooftop developer Apex Airspace Development.

The developer, which is part of Apex Housing Group, has already completed one such project in Camden and has another going through planning.

Arshad Bhatti, Managing Director of Apex Housing Group, said: “The potential for airspace development is great news and an incentive for property freeholders, whether a private individual, ground rent investor, private company, or public authority, as well as providing a unique opportunity to create much-needed new homes in the capital

“If you have an expensive piece of land in any city centre in the world, you use it, but we have so much unused space in London and owners are unaware they can sell it.

“We are actively seeking potential sites for development and encourage property freehold owners to consider selling their rooftop airspace, generating potential high returns in the process.”

Wilmot Place, NW1, the developer’s completed project in Camden, is a redeveloped residential block of six flats, with the two-bedroom penthouse added onto the rooftop airspace of the building.

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Apex say the airspace was valued at approximately £300,000 and the completed penthouse sold for £1.2million.

Another refurbishment of a residential block with the addition of a luxury penthouse on the roof is currently in planning for a building at the Camden end of Abbey Road.

While both Camden properties are luxury penthouses, Apex say they are in discussion with several local authorities about the possibility of building affordable homes in the airspace above commercial and public buildings as well as residential.

Mr Bhatti said: “We are working with a number of local authorities across London and expect airspace development projects will help bridge the gap between demand and supply of new homes in London – crucially with minimum lead times, and offering maximum value for property owners.”

Apex buys the rooftop development rights from property freeholders with a long lease, which is linked to the market value of the homes being built.

The apartments are pre-fabricated in a factory and then placed in position via crane.

The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) also called for the government to prioritise upward extension of existing buildings as a solution to the housing crisis rather than outwards expansion.

Drawing on research from the Minister for Housing and the Mayor of London the BMF pointed out that 49,000 extra homes per year are required to narrow the gap between housing demand and supply but only 25,000 additional units have been completed each year since 2008, of which fewer than 2 per cent were as a result of projects that included some element of upward extension work.

John Newcomb, BMF Managing Director, said: “No-one wants a repeat of bad high-rise housing from the past. But te BMF believes better use can be made of existing buildings. As these figures show, there is scope to dramatically increase the number of new homes. Allowing London property to be extended upwards, for limited number of storeys, up to the height of adjoining buildings, without needing prior approval, is a good way to do so. It is not the single solution to today’s housing crisis but it is a good one, worth pursuing”.