Build homes above hospitals to solve London’s housing shortage

Redeveloping existing NHS buildings to include floors of apartments above the service buildings could provide 77, 000 news homes in London, property consultants WSP have said today.

A recent report by the London Health Commission found that £50-£60m was being spent annually on maintaining NHS buildings that were either not used or not fit for purpose, prompting experts at WSP, the firm behind the engineering design for the Shard, to analyse the opportunities for redeveloping the real estate.

WSP says that by building apartments above NHS buildings you could provide a minimum of 77,000 new homes in London. This would represent almost 20% of the 400,000 homes needed in the next decade according to the Mayor, with the added benefit of being able to redevelop ageing and unused healthcare facilities at the same time.

WSP’s estimation is based on their analysis of 79 individual existing NHS buildings in London, allowing for 100m² per apartment and using a mixed height overbuild development strategy, with a combination of 6, 12, and 18 storeys. It only considers hospital buildings without A&E facilities, which would cause specific planning and construction issues. If all the new residential buildings included 18 extra storeys the strategy could provide 118,000 homes, more than a quarter of the estimated need.

Director at WSP Bill Price said

“If private developers were allowed to invest in this land it would help plug the gap for more homes in London as well as provide state of the art healthcare facilities to replace those that need a facelift or are not currently being used. Obviously there are a few hurdles that would need tackling but this is done elsewhere in the world, for example the USA, and there’s certainly no technical reason why it couldn’t be done.

“However the point is not that we should go out and redevelop every hospital into an apartment block, but that we need to start thinking creatively about our housing woes, challenging the status quo and looking at how we use the land available to us.”

There are technical challenges of building apartments over or alongside healthcare facilities, for example design issues around how to segregate the service areas and ensure accessibility, but WSP’s experts say there is nothing that couldn’t be overcome.

WSP’s initial analysis is a precursor to a wider study to be published in the Autumn which will include an estimate of overbuilding on all appropriate municipal buildings in London.