The Future of Affordable Workspaces

Finding a workspace that meets your professional and travel needs can provide such a huge relief. However, the real cherry on top is finding a space that is economical and does not require you to dig deep into your pockets.

Speaking to Dale Thomson from the Islington Council, we look at how he and many others are working towards implementing Islington’s ground-breaking Affordable Workspace Programme, using GLA Good Growth Funding and developer responsibilities from large developments as part of the Inclusive Economy service.

What is the Affordable Workplace Scheme?

The Affordable Workspace Programme Islington was developed some years ago, Dale explains. There were planners who had the idea of writing into the section 106 agreement with developers, which is all about developer obligations. Instead of asking for money, these planners offered to give the council a percentage of the space in new commercial developments that they could let out as affordable workspace.

What Dale and his team basically do is to get the space from the developer once it’s nearly finished then go out to market. They find an operator and do an under lease with the operator for the same period.

The team is careful to only engage with operators whose values are aligned with their own.  They want operators that have the capacity to deliver community interventions that are needed, and the kinds of interventions that actually make a difference.

What is affordable?

Dale believes that affordable means different things to different sectors. However, if you’re starting off, affordability is as low as possible. In the case of the programme, that is defined as 80% of market rent. 

Council is incredibly aware that if a workspace happens to be in white collar factory on Old Street, 80% of market rent is still unaffordable to probably 90% of the entrepreneurs who want to work in that space. To combat this, what they normally do is to find an operator who has a charging scale that has a range of costs. 

Why do old industrial buildings encourage diversity?

Jane Jacobs said that new ideas need old buildings, and Dale couldn’t agree more. Old buildings give people the freedom to innovate, to try and to do different things. More of that freedom can be found in an older cheaper building than in a very shiny expensive building with more expenses.

The Best place to find Dale online.

Islington Council on Twitter and on LinkedIn as well. Otherwise, just Google Affordable Workspace Islington and you’ll find their pages and all the details about the program and the strategy and how to get in touch with them.

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