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by Rory Brigstock-Barron
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Overseas investors who buy up the borough’s most desirable property as investments could be penalised by the town hall.
Islington Council is launching an attack on growing number of empty properties – caused by the “buy-to-leave” phenomenon.
Up to half of some developments in Islington’s city fringe areas have no-one on the electoral roll, according to council data, and town hall chiefs say the empty homes represent “wasted” supply – with the borough in desperate need of affordable housing.
Now the council is planning to put a stop to “buy-to-leave” through stricter rules in its planning policy, becoming the first local authority in the country to make the move.
Cllr James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “In Islington, as across London, it’s harder and harder for people to find somewhere they can afford to live.
‘‘At the same time, expensive new housing is being built, often sold off-plan overseas, and then left to stand empty.
“It’s galling for Londoners to see homes being sold overseas before they’re even built – and it’s outrageous for new homes to then stand empty in the middle of a housing crisis.
“In Islington we desperately need more affordable housing, and every new home should help meet our housing shortage.
“We cannot stand by as new homes sit there empty, purely as investments, and so we are setting out our plans to end this.”
The new rules, which can currently be viewed online as part of a consultation, would force home owners with empty properties to make contributions to affordable housing, put the onus on owners to prove homes are occupied and increase marketing of new homes locally.
Among Islington’s worst buildings for “buy-to-leave” was the Orchard Building in Pear Tree Street, where 51 per cent of properties do not have anyone on the electoral roll.
Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn has been a lead campaigner against “buy-to-leave” and its effect on house prices and private rent rates.
He said: “I think this is a good move by Islington Council. We need to address this custom of wealthy people and organisations buying new properties in order to benefit from the price rise.
‘‘We have to do something in order to maintain the diversity of our communities in central London.’’
Consultation has begun on the discussion paper, which can be found online atislington.gov.uk/services/planning/planningpol.