Vacant Shophouses in Bangkok: Root Causes and Policy Implications

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Nabila Imam


Since the old-fashioned shophouses cannot act in response to the urban sprawl and changing lifestyles of Bangkok, over time they are gradually converted into partially vacant buildings, or sometimes they may become entirely unoccupied for an indefinite period of time. A noticeable large number of fully or partially vacant shophouses can be found in the city in almost every nook and corner. These vacant shophouses act as the "voids" in the neighborhood, posing a threat to potential housing community development, economic opportunity, environmental health, and public safety within the city. However, these so-called "voids" can offer a great opportunity for the city if they are utilized wisely. The focus of this paper is to examine some of the relative findings obtained during a survey that was carried out in order to find out the root causes of shophouse vacancy in Bangkok. Root causes were identified in a structured manner, considering several contexts, using a very well-known methodology: Fishbone analysis in combination with the 5-Whys analysis technique. The findings conclude that the main root causes of vacancy are a few issues associated with obsolete architectural design, lack of parking facilities, a surplus of housing and shopping choices, and outer migration, closely followed by a lack of regulations for vacant properties and financial support for renovation. These findings have significant policy implications concerning business plans, what owners want, funding sources for the revitalization process, consultative assistance for the owners, connecting with relevant stakeholders, vacant property taxation and regulations, raising awareness about vacant property, etc. There is an urgent need, as the city modernizes and more social changes occur, for the government and policymakers to scrutinize the existing policies and develop new policies and programs so as to ensure proper utilization of these artifacts as a tool for equitable urban development. It is anticipated that the outcomes of this paper will contribute valuable knowledge and solutions in how to bring these unoccupied and underutilized shophouses in use again and how to prevent potential expansion of the vacancy.

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