Policymakers need to shatter some of the political nostrums of the last 40 years. One of which is addressing the fact that around 20% of all residential property sales are to non-resident foreign buyers.
Of course, we would not suggest banning the sale of these homes to non-UK resident purchasers, but instead to seriously explore the potential benefits of introducing a levy on such sales, especially on high-end properties.
For example, the highest level of council tax in Kensington & Chelsea is less than £3,000. In New York County, New York a $2m property sees a $14,000 annual levy and a $5m property incurs a $25,000 levy.
These are big numbers if such a levy were to be used to part-fund the delivery of more affordable homes for working Londoners.
Other proposals, which could deliver 30,000 new affordable to buy homes a year, actually wouldn’t be that radical at all.
As a housing developer whose target market is key workers and young city dwellers, we see the challenges first-hand. There are hundreds of thousands of hard-working young people frustrated by the housing market. They are hampered by limited choice, the cost and the lack of quality.
The experience of Nine Elms in Wandsworth should be the wake-up call. Hundreds of shiny new homes delivered with barely any of them delivering any form of electoral dividend for the local Conservatives.
By making small changes to the UK’s planning system, small urban sites could come forward in much greater numbers, yielding thousands of affordable homes close to existing transport links at no cost to the government. Our estimate is the introduction of a new National Small Sites Policy could deliver upwards of 30,000 new affordable homes per annum.
Reducing red tape hampering smaller developers and builders, and easing planning rules on inner city sites would enable tens of thousands of new homes to be built across small sites on underused brownfield land.
We’re confident that these policies could transform the prospects for any political party serious about tackling a lack of affordable housing, starting in London.
And the recent local elections illustrate that the Conservatives don’t just have a London problem, they have a problem with cities full stop.
With the fall of their flagship councils in Wandsworth and Westminster, there are very few urban Tories left in our cities and certainly none with long standing reputations for electoral resilience.
But, will any party be brave enough to increase taxes on overseas sales, and to transform the planning system to help key workers and city makers?
Marc Vlessing is the founder and CEO of Pocket Living