The London Borough of Islington have recently proposed drastic new measures which could see new homeowners in the area required to keep their properties occupied in a bid to reverse the wasteful ‘buy-to-leave’ trend.
Over the years, it has become a common theme, especially across London, for investors, ever increasingly foreign, to snap up new build properties. Figures revealed by research consultancy Molior show that in developments of more than 20 units across London, over 70% of new build sales in the £1,000 to £1,500 sq ft range were to investors.
In a separate study by Islington Borough Council, figures showed that 30% of a representative sample of 2000 homes built in the past 6 years had nobody registered on the electoral roll, and that almost 25% of homes in 5 of the most recent residential developments appeared to be empty.
The new proposed measures are Islington’s way of reducing particularly the latter of the two statistics above, but how effective would they be?
Under the new proposals, purchasers of new build properties would have to ensure that their property is occupied for at least 14 days every 3 months or face legal action.
Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, Cllr James Murray says:
“In Islington, as across London, there is a desperate shortage of housing…Our new proposals would make sure that all new homes in Islington are occupied – we want to send a message that ‘buy-to-leave’ is unacceptable”
However, it is unlikely to be that simple, for example, how will the council keep track of which properties are occupied? How are they going to measure the length of time that vacant properties have been empty?
Another grey area might be the interpretation of the word ‘occupied’. What does the owner have to do to occupy a house for 14 days? Could they merely pop back for some lunch, a coffee and perhaps a spot of evening television on 14 separate occasions over a period of 3 months? Or does it require them to spend exactly 336 hours in the confines of their house?
The measures may also have an adverse effect on house prices. With the proposed measures focussing solely on new builds, this may make existing properties more desirable and push up their value. It is also argued that perhaps an even bigger issue is being ignored – dealing with vacant land.
The measures have been put out to consultation until Friday 30th January so we eagerly await the outcome. You can have your say here