U.K. to Relax Planning Laws for Offices to Become Homes

The U.K. is set to relax planning laws to allow developers to convert unused office space into homes in a bid to increase the supply of affordable housing and stimulate the flagging economy.

“This government is committed to getting brownfield land and empty buildings back into productive use,” the Department for Communities and Local Government said today in an e-mailed statement. “We are currently looking to make it easier to convert empty and under-used commercial space into residential use.”

The City of London, the U.K. capital’s main financial district, will be granted an exemption when the new rules are announced by Planning Minister Nick Boles later this week, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. Authorities from the borough told ministers empty offices will be occupied by businesses again when the British economy recovers, the person said.

The measures are part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s relaxation of planning laws to encourage building. The premier has eased the obligations on developers to build affordable housing and allowed bigger extensions on private homes without local authority permission.

The government has also given 16,500 first-time buyers help getting on the housing ladder under an extension of the FirstBuy Scheme, under which would-be homeowners without a deposit are given an equity loan of up to 20 percent of the purchase price.

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