“MAYOR MUST DO MORE TO STOP LONDON HOMES GOING TO INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS” – LABOUR / LAMBETH UNCOVERS “APPALLING AND DANGEROUS” FLATS /
BETTER PROTECTION FOR TENANTS / NEW PLANS ANNOUNCED FOR TABERNER HOUSE SITE
“MAYOR MUST DO MORE TO STOP LONDON HOMES GOING TO INTERNATIONAL INVESTORS” – LABOUR
London Assembly Labour housing spokesman Tom Copley has challenged the Mayor of London Boris Johnson on his failure to prevent international investors buying up homes in new developments and exacerbating the capital’s growing housing crisis.
With the Mayor set to meet representatives of the Battersea Power Station Development Company in Malaysia, Mr Copley raised serious questions about the effectiveness of the Mayor’s ‘concordat’ with developers after reports that 539 properties from the iconic Battersea Power Station development were marketed for an intensive international ‘roadshow’ last month.
Mr Copley said that the roadshow, which included exhibitions in Paris, New York, Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Beijing, Doha and Milan, showed that the development has been priced and marketed for international clients and was “a millions miles from affordable to ordinary Londoners.”
Mr Copley, a Labour Londonwide assembly member, said: “Even the Mayor now appears to accept that most Londoners are struggling to afford to live in the capital.
“Despite many calls for action to stop developers prioritising properties for sale abroad, many new developments continue to price and market homes to attract international investors rather than ordinary Londoners.
“Boris Johnson has done very little to stop new properties from being priced and marketed for foreign investors.
“The fact the Mayor’s toothless ‘concordat’ is purely based on goodwill and not even monitored shows it’s hardly worth the paper it’s written on. “As it stands the price of homes in major new developments is often a millions miles from affordable to ordinary Londoners.
“The cost of the average London home has risen by £162,000 since Boris Johnson became Mayor in 2008. “Part of that increase is down to international investors pushing up prices, leaving first time buyers increasingly priced out of the market.”
In a statement London Labour’s group said: “The concordat between developers and the Mayor has been signed by 59 developers with a pledge that they would take steps to market their properties in the London and the UK first.
“Yet in a response to fellow London assembly member Nicky Gavron last month, the Mayor conceded that it was entirely ‘based on goodwill’ and that he did not even monitor compliance.
“According to figures from Savills, £7 billion of international money was spent on high-end London homes last year, with only 20 per cent of prime property purchases being from the UK. Savills also estimated that two-thirds of these overseas purchases were by investors rather than owner-occupiers.
“And speaking in an interview with New York’s public radio in November the Mayor accepted that London’s property market was increasingly unaffordable to ordinary Londoners.
“He said: “’The success of London is having a weird effect of making it very hard for Londoners to afford to live there… In assets, there is no question that there is a steady impoverishment of the bourgeoisie and we need to address it’,.” (Source: GLA Labour party press release).
LAMBETH UNCOVERS “APPALLING AND DANGEROUS” FLATS
Up to eight people were housed in “appalling” conditions in a former ‘shortlife’ property that had been illegally converted into flats, Lambeth council has discovered.
Council officers who took back possession of the property in Rectory Gardens, Clapham found that it had been transformed from a three-bedroomed home to a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), with eight rooms – pulling in an estimated £40,000 a year in rent, said a Lambeth council spokeswoman.
“A large branch from a nearby tree was growing into one of the rooms – and the occupants were using electricity from a cable passed through a hole drilled in the branch.
“The house did not have clear and suitable emergency exits. All eight occupants had to share a single bath and toilet.
“Council experts estimate that, at a market rate of £100 a week per room, the “landlord” could have made £40,000 a year from the property, which actually belongs to Lambeth council.
“The terraced house was a ‘shortlife’ property, one of 1,200 licensed to housing associations and cooperatives on a short-term basis in the 1970s, on the clear understanding that they would be returned to the council.”
The discovery comes a week after Lambeth council warned of the potentially fatal dangers of stealing electricity after taking possession of another shortlife property in the Clapham area, from which power had been supplied illegally to a number of houses, added the spokeswoman.
“An electrician contracted by the council to make the property safe said unsecured cables and unsafe connections made it the most dangerous site he’d seen in 35 years and it was a miracle that no one had been electrocuted.”
Cllr Matthew Bennett, Lambeth’s cabinet member for housing said: “The conditions the people in this illegal HMO were living in were truly appalling, and represented a genuine danger to life and limb.
“It is shocking that someone can make money exploiting people by illegally renting out such dangerous accommodation with no regard for the safety of the people living there.
“We have 21,000 people on our housing waiting list, 1,800 families in temporary accommodation, and 1,300 families who are severely overcrowded.
“With this housing need, it would be irresponsible to spend our money refurbishing shortlife properties which are in a very poor state of disrepair – particularly when they are being misused for these exploitative and illegal purposes.” (Source: Lambeth council press release.)
BETTER PROTECTION FOR TENANTS
Tenants, and those thinking of renting a property, are being urged by Croydon’s trading standards team to ensure their agent is affiliated to an approved redress scheme.
Since 1 October, letting agents in England have been required to register with one of three such schemes, designed to provide a free, independent service for resolving disputes between letting agents and their customers.
This compulsory requirement comes as a response to the increasing numbers of complaints from tenants and landlords about letting agents.
The schemes give tenants somewhere to turn if they have concerns about discrimination, hidden fees, missing deposits or other disputes – and, importantly, receive compensation if it is due.
Letting agents and property management agents have a choice of three approved redress schemes to join:
The Property Ombudsman Service – www.tpos.co.uk
Ombudsman Services: Property – www.ombudsman-services.org/property
The Property Redress Scheme – www.theprs.co.uk
Tenants are advised to check that the agents they are dealing with belong to one of these schemes, each of which will be able to consider complaints made against the agent in the event of dissatisfaction with the way the agent has dealt with a particular matter.
Agents who have yet to join one of the approved redress schemes are reminded that they should do so immediately as non-compliance could result in a £5,000 fine.
Cllr Alison Butler, cabinet member for homes and regeneration, said: “The size and popularity of Croydon mean that the borough has a large number of letting agents serving many thousands of tenants.
“It’s the council’s responsibility to ensure that they’re all abiding by the rules and providing the sort of service and reassurance their clients have a right to expect.
“Our trading standards team will be checking up on local agents to confirm they’ve joined one of the approved schemes, and to take enforcement action against those who haven’t.” (Source: Croydon council press release.)
NEW PLANS ANNOUNCED FOR TABERNER HOUSE SITE
Revised plans for the redevelopment of the Taberner House site will see an increase in affordable housing, greater protection of Queen’s Gardens and some of the homes provided as much needed council housing.
A total of 420 homes, comprising four blocks, will be built on the site, with 30 per cent affordable housing – up from 15pc under the original proposals, which also included an extra block.
There will be a range of tenures including affordable rent, shared ownership and private for sale units. The council will keep the affordable homes as council homes.
A key part of the new scheme is reducing the encroachment of the development on Queen’s Gardens, which will increase the amount of open space by more than 1,000 sq m.
In addition, the changes include an increase in the number of disabled parking spaces being provided.
The first phase of the scheme is set to begin in March with work starting on the construction of a 32-storey tower, delivering 230 homes.
The remaining 190 homes in the second phase will be owned by the council, which will retain 30% as affordable council homes and sell the remainder.
Cllr Alison Butler, cabinet member for homes and regeneration, said: “Having ownership of the second phase of development gives the council far greater control over the scheme than under the previous plans.
“We’re pleased that the revised plans will include more affordable housing – a major priority for this administration – and protect Queen’s Gardens from overdevelopment.
“We want to ensure that Queen’s Gardens is a vibrant green space where families go to spend their free time.” (Source: Croydon council press release.)