Overseas property buyers: london struggles with ‘ghost mansions’ and ‘zombie flats
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Londyn they are not hard to spot if you know where to look especially at night the floors of swanky new apartments most of the windows dark almost all the time the zombie flats owned but empty spot mints in the inner city with an affordable housing shortage a new development planned in Kensington West London photo pn on this cobbled Mews in Chelsea on that private walk in Kensington no one home either there's enough empty property here to be given a name in the British news media the ghost mansions of lights out London the streets where it is alleged that seven in ten addresses a second or third or fourth homes the blight of conspicuous empty home ownership is a big story in London and around the globe but a solution is surprisingly elusive London faces a crushing shortage of affordable housing because the city is a global magnet for aspirational newcomers a safe refuge for stash or cash capital and a victim of its own smashing success even in these anxious brexit days affordable here being a relative term where the average price for a flat last year was 713 thousand one hundred and forty three dollars it is especially brutal for young people middle incomes and first-time buyers so London Mayor Sadiq Khan vowed to tax the empties London real estate increasingly out of reach photo Bloomberg the rising Labour Party star who has sparred with President Donald Trump campaigned on the populist issue of the injustice of foreign ownership and ghost merchants promising that Londoners should get first dibs on new construction this month can appealed to Parliament to give London's local government's new authority to seriously jack up taxes for high-value homes left empty by the international elite Mayor of London Sadiq Khan photo PA whether Khan's plan to tax the vacant rituals are much to solve the affordable housing crunch is unknown the experts say it is dubious meanwhile a shortage of affordable real estate plagues London photo Bloomberg way in part because the rich are immune from a relatively puny bump in taxes and it's not like they are going to move out of there rarely occupied townhouses and it does on needy families will move in the London Mayor is not alone in casting about the waste to solve his city's housing shortage the empty home phenomenon has gone viral in hot post codes around the world and it is especially visible in cities such as Miami Hong Kong Vancouver BC Dubai Singapore San Francisco in Sydney where foreign buyers and their shell companies gobble up units as investment properties and piggy banks in Manhattan The New Yorker had a look at census bureau numbers which revealed that in Midtown from 49th to 70th streets between 5th and park avenues nearly one in three residences are unoccupied at least 10 months per year newsweek estimated in paris one apartment in four sits empty most of the time in jerusalem the deputy mayor said the number of ghost flats is triple the official estimate and bemoaned the impact on young families searching for a bit of living space but how to stop or slow or tax the empty units is unchartered territory including whether it is even possible or desirable Susan Emmett head of housing and urban regeneration at policy exchange a london-based think tank said the city has a real housing problem but that empty luxury apartments are a scapegoat what it does she said it gives us a focal point for a sense of injustice and people can point to something that is big and shiny and say look I'm struggling to pay my rent for rubbish flat in there's this enormous building and nobody is living there you can understand that anger and it's pretty real and I can understand Kahn wants to do something about it yet it's not clear the mayor's proposals would make a dent labor leaders have proposed tripling taxes on the highest-end properties from today's tops of about $2,500 to tomorrow's $7,500 a year most of London's 20,000 empty units are known by the super-rich but by the middle and lower rungs and studies show most homes are empty because they have the subject of inheritance tussles are uninhabitable or in need of repairs when faced with the reports Kahn retreated to say in London just one home left unoccupied is one too many which is not much of a campaign slogan housing experts say Kahn's tax plan could hurt the middle class and will not likely change the behavior of the most wealthy absentee owners the global ultrarich fair a strange breed so far at the end of the income distribution curve that fair essentially immune from such pressure said cat Scanlon a housing expert at the London School of Economics and little science Scanlon who wrote one of the reports for the mayor said she imagined that tripling property taxes for the well todo with empty homes willed little she called proposed bumps trivial for the mega-rich owners its pocket change for them Scanlon said studies commissioned by the mayor revealed that the number of entirely empty homes in London overall is actually quite low maybe 1% in although 20-thousand empty units in London sounds large this is a city of almost 9 million residents still a lot of the most visible high-end empty property is in central London ghost mansions and zombie penthouses were once a stealthy phenomenon propelled by Saudi sheiks and Russian oligarchs they're still players but now an overseas investor for new property in London is more likely to be a middle-class family from China Malaysia or Singapore and they're not buying 25 million dollars Georgian mansions as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg did and then left it mostly empty according to The Guardian newspaper instead these foreign buyers from Singapore and Hong Kong snapping up apartments worth less than $500,000 and most of these flats are quickly rented out according to a pair of studies by the London School for economics and the University of York London is struggling to increase the number of affordable homes in a highly politicized environment where I Bridge mortals feel squeezed out of their own city by the moneyed classes and overseas buyers the inequalities were placed in stark relief after the devastating conflagration in June at Granville tower a twenty four storey public housing building and a proven fire trap where at least 80 people died grenfell Tower is in London's Kensington and Chelsea Barra home to a high number of ghost mansions and a suburb of sharp contrast between rich and poor after the Grenfell fire labour politicians declared it was simply unacceptable that there were 1652 empty homes in Kensington Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested the properties could be requisitioned if necessary it can't be acceptable that in London we have luxury buildings and luxury flats left empty as land banking for the future while the homeless and the poor look for somewhere to live Corbin said at the time on the streets ordinary residents appear divided the son George Wharf tower is a gleaming glossy 50 story apartment complex in London's Foxhall suburb singled out by the British news media as a vivid symbol of the empty house crisis more than half of the homes in the building are in foreign ownership according to an investigation by The Guardian newspaper and many barely lived in nearby residents weren't surprised nor did they seem to mind rich foreigners bought apartments that locals could not and brought money into the area taxing them would NT helped solve London's housing issue they said plus there are upsides to living next to absentee neighbors i would shudder to imagine if this was running at 80 percent occupancy said suruci Shukla a 38 year old consultant with her head cranked skyward at the building Washington Post

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