There have been a few articles in the press recently about empty homes in London, especially high value ones owned by foreign investors who don’t live in these homes but leave them empty to the detriment of the local area and the local community. Examples quoted in The London Evening Standard included homes in Park Lane which have been empty since 1996; and a house in Mayfair which is on the market for £50 million after being empty for ‘many years’.
Also in the news recently is the seemingly ‘notorious’ The Bishops Avenue in Hamstead, often called Billionaires’ Road, which has a number of homes which are not only empty, and have been for many years, but actually derelict.
The Mayor of London talks-the-talk on empty homes in London, now that a head of steam is rising over the high number of homes which are being bought up, at very high prices, by foreign investors pricing out Londoners, but his ‘interventions’ will make little if any difference.
He says that developers should stop advertising luxury apartments in London exclusively to purchasers from the middle-east, from the far-east and the ex-USSR, but to also advertise to Londoners at the same time. But this is pointless as most Londoners can’t afford the inflated prices being charged and being secured. Too many large developments in London are not for living in – they are being designed as safe-havens for the savings of overseas multimillionaires, oligarchs and others who live in places where they don’t trust their governments and systems; but they don’t want to pay towards the costs of making the UK the safe-haven their seek.
I would like to know if The Major of London, in his London Plan, has estimated the number of homes required only for living in, or is he adding additional capacity for the needs of overseas investors? If the former, there will be a big shortfall (because of the buying spree from overseas investors in London property); if the latter why should we unnecessarily force London into being a high-density city which will wreck one of the very things which makes London so attractive to live in?
The Mayor calls on London Boroughs to follow the lead of Camden in charging a premium Council Tax rate on empty homes. Does he really think that increasing Council Tax from, say, £1,361 (maximum in Westminster) to £2,042; or from £ 2,649 (maximum for Camden) to £3,973 will make any difference to someone who owns a house worth £50m? These figures show the Mayor’s talk for what it is – nice sound-bites but lacking any serious thinking on how to get to the heart of the problem of absentee owners using London as a store-house for their money.
I have a more radical proposal for the empty homes in The Bishops Avenue. How about Compulsory Purchasing the derelict ones, and building high density homes for Londoner’s within their nice roomy plots? Or are 48 storey blocks of flats only for places like Deptford? This proposal is only partially serious – but it might wake a few people up.