London is a prime location globally for wealth investment in residential property. New tower blocks have sprung up across the capital since the turn of the century, often accompanied by advertisements for luxury apartments.

As of January 2020 over 500 more applications have been agreed for high-rise developments. At the same time, London is at the epicentre of the UK housing crisis, with average prices for residential properties being well out of the reach of households on average incomes. In Islington, for example, the typical cost of a two-bed home is more than twelve times the average income – a couple both earning the average wage would need at least three mortgages to buy a home.

Those on low-incomes are being shunted into low quality and relatively high-cost private accommodation. People sleeping on the streets have multiplied. And London boroughs are currently spending over £700m per annum on housing the homeless in insecure 'Temporary Accommodation' often miles away from their friends, family and childrens' schools.

For the last year, Action on Empty Homes has been analysing the impact of wealth investment in residential property and discussing with a range of different stakeholders the role it plays in London’s housing crisis and what might be done about it.

We began by reviewing international examples of housing markets in cities also experiencing a growth in such wealth investment in residential property while failing, like London, to deliver affordable housing for citizens on average incomes. We looked at the policy responses proposed and implemented by local, regional and national governments to tackle the problem. We have published a summary of the findings in 'Homes  Without Residents' (Jan 2020) - click here to download the report.

We then held a series of discussions in the Autumn of 2019 with stakeholders to look at what could be the best policy responses for
London. These included: 
■ Leading academic experts
■ NGOs and thinktanks
■ Housing campaigners from across London
■ Londoners experiencing homelessness
■ Elected representatives of all the parties represented in the Greater London Assembly

It is becoming evident to us that income generation from residential property in cities like London does not necessarily require the involvement of any permanent residents - wealth investors do not need to use these homes to house residents at all, rich or poor.

This calls into question both the definition of such property as residential and the degree to which local planning targets for annual newbuild contribution to housing stock, homes for permanent residents to live in, are realistic or accurate.

We have created a short survey to assess our stakeholders’ views on what might be the most effective policy responses for London. The proposals are drawn from the discussions we held with our stakeholder and expert groups during October 2019 and include both approaches which are possible under current legislation and those which would require legislative changes.

Broadly speaking these include enforcement and taxation proposals, planning and development controls, changes to housing policy and alternative approaches to the recording of the ownership and utilisation of residential property - linked in some cases to
the regulation of particular forms of usage (for example short term lettings).

Please click here to complete the survey

– your views are vital and a valuable part of this project.