The government is considering relaxing planning rules to make it easier to turn empty offices into houses to ease the UK housing crisis. But how many people could the plan help?

Graphic: How many people vacant offices across the UK could house

Planning Minister Nick Boles is due to announce changes to the planning system this week, which would make it easier for offices to be converted into homes.

The government hopes the plans will have the dual effect of addressing the UK's housing shortage and revamping run-down areas where office schemes are not viable.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, the government office in charge of planning, said: "We are currently looking to make it easier to convert empty and under-used commercial space into residential use.

"This will provide new homes, help regenerate urban areas and boost local town centres."

How many could it house?

Much will depend on the inclination of property owners to convert their offices into residential property, and also on the locations of offices. However, with more than 3.4 million metres of vacant offices across the UK's main office markets, there is potential to house a total of 92,948 people.

London leads the way with the most potential office space that could be converted, followed by Manchester and Birmingham (see graphic, right).

Other government schemes to address the UK's housing shortage include Funding for Lending and NewBuy, both of which it is hoped will help reach the government's annual target of delivering 240,000 new homes.

Robin Hardy, an analyst from Peel Hunt, said: "If the planning barriers to conversion are effectively removed, this could have a significant impact. The whole country is littered with masses of under-occupied low-value office buildings that would make fabulous residential (property)."

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