A guide to meanwhile spaces

As commercial rents rise, more businesses are exploring hybrid working approaches to cut down costs. With building developments also seeing delays as a result of the pandemic and politics, many spaces are being left empty.

Related topics:  Property
The Utilize Project
9th September 2022
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To help combat the empty space problem across the UK, meanwhile spaces have been adopted by many, specifically within the capital.

What is a meanwhile space?

Meanwhile spaces use temporary contracts that allow community groups, small businesses, or individuals to move into vacant spaces and set up shop, on the understanding that they will leave when the landowner requires them to.

As empty spaces result in a hefty fee, meanwhile spaces are rented out at a reduced price by the landlord, as a short-term solution to avoid the empty space tax.

Mahmud Shahnawaz, founder of the social enterprise, The Utilize Project, says “We have had spaces rented out at as little as £1 per square foot within the Canary Wharf area. In comparison, research by Knight Frank reveals renting costs of on average £50 per square foot in this same area.”

“Meanwhile spaces and their reduced fees massively help community groups and SMEs who initially wouldn’t be able to afford the capital’s sky-high rents.”, he adds.

The growth of meanwhile spaces

An increasing number of people are embracing meanwhile spaces to kickstart businesses and support their hybrid approach to working.

According to a study by the Centre for London, there were 51 active meanwhile spaces in 2018 and within the current property market, experts predict there will be even more now.

Whilst there aren’t currently up-to-date figures on the actual use of meanwhile spaces, social enterprises, such as The Utilize Project, have housed over 80 different businesses across 8 buildings in canary wharf over the last four years.

Benefits of meanwhile spaces

Meanwhile spaces are advantageous for all parties involved, with the tenant, the landlord and the local council all benefiting.

For tenants, cheaper rent allows start-ups to have a temporary home to kickstart business and connect with the local community. The short-term contract is also highly beneficial for businesses and community groups that are in their primary stages as it gives them the much-needed flexibility if things don’t go to plan.

With regards to landlords, hosting a third party through a temporary contract allows them to avoid empty space tax, which can cost landlords up to thousands of pounds a month.

Councils have begun to crack down on empty spaces within their local areas, as unused properties restrict economic potential and a community feel, along with increasing crime rates.

A report by London Green Party member, Sian Berry, revealed that members of London communities continuously bring up the issue of empty spaces within their area. Therefore, it’s in the council’s best interest to fill these empty properties, and meanwhile spaces facilitate this.

Shahnawaz concludes:  “Landlords and councils have been sceptical in the past due to misaligned perceptions and market immaturity. However, as the meanwhile space industry grows and people start to experience the benefits, they could be the future of commercial rent.”

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