Empty garages should be converted into affordable workspaces for startups

The report, ‘From Lock Up to Start Up’, urges housing associations to transform disused garages into commercial spaces and rent them out at competitive prices to micro-businesses such as cycle mechanics, carpenters and product designers.

Report author and GLA Conservatives planning spokesman Steve O’Connell said: “Enterprise is thriving in the UK but our research has found that many start-ups and micro businesses face high rents and tricky rental terms with landlords.

We have identified over 3,000 garages lying empty across London, the reality is that there are many more. Housing associations should invest some cash in doing them up, and if they’re not suitable for housing, offer them for rent to start-ups and micro businesses to help them grow. I recently looked for commercial studio and workshop space for rent across London, and my search brought up a price range of £560-£1,630 per month, very high prices for a start-up cycle mechanic, a small architect’s firm or a growing printing business. There is no reason why this scheme could not eventually be rolled out across the UK.”

An example of what a converted garage block could look like
An example of what a converted garage block could look like

The report estimates the cost of converting a garage into a business unit to be £26K, which includes basics such as electrical rewiring, heating, insulation and decent internet connection. At a rent of £60 a week, the housing association could make their initial investment back in approximately eight years, and profits could be reinvested into their stock.

Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh, CEO and inventor of ‘sugru’, self-setting bonding rubber, said: “We started out online, and so high-speed internet connection was vital to help us connect with our community. We house the laboratory, factory and business services all under one roof meaning we need to have a reliable and safe electrical supply.

It sounds like a great idea to make sure London isn’t wasting empty spaces when they can be used to help small businesses grow. If start-ups could find affordable rental spaces to expand their business it would take the pressure off those first few years of making ends meet.”

Shoreditch based web designer Jack Morrell said: “I currently work from home, but often work within coffee shops, pubs and other places in the local area that have WiFi access. After trading for almost two years, I have considered leasing some office space in order to take my business to the next level and perhaps allow me to take on a member of staff. I would undoubtedly be more likely to hire an employee if I had affordable office space, such as an ex-garage.”

‘From Lock Up to Start Up’, calls for housing associations to work in partnership with the Mayor and pilot the conversion of an initial 300 garages to help microbusinesses grow.