Sunday, 31 August 2014

Freedom of information request reveals extent of empty luxury homes

Just 19 households living in flats at One Hyde Park

Fewer than a quarter of the apartments in a luxury £1.2 billion development in central London are permanently occupied by individuals, a freedom of information request has revealed.

One Hyde Park in Knightsbridge, an 86-apartment development marketed as ‘the most exclusive address in the world’, has 19 flats registered as ‘occupied by individuals’.

According to data obtained by Inside Housing under the Freedom of Information Act on 9 September, Westminster Council treats 16 of the properties as empty and 26 as second homes for council tax purposes.

The remaining 23 are registered as occupied by companies. Of the 16 empty properties, 13 have been sold, according to the developer.

Similarly, at the 77-home, £400 million The Lancasters development, also in Hyde Park, three homes are empty, 27 are second homes, 18 are occupied by companies and 30 are occupied by individuals. The development’s website says all properties in The Lancasters are sold.

Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, said: ‘Although One Hyde Park is an extreme example, it is nonetheless telling us something about ghost town central London.

‘Coupled with the fact that they are not providing affordable housing onsite, this is having the effect of transforming central London - squeezing out affordable housing to make way for empty luxury developments.’

Developer Prime Grande (Guernsey) - a joint venture between Christian Candy’s CPC Group and the former Qatari prime minister’s private company Waterknights - provided 70 units of affordable housing in Pimlico as part of the planning obligation for One Hyde Park. A spokesperson stressed all residents pay the correct level of council tax.

There is no discount for second or empty homes in Westminster.

Minerva, developer of The Lancasters, did not comment.

Mured Qureshi, Labour London Assembly member covering Westminster, said: ‘People are using property as an investment - essentially as a bank account - and this is distorting the housing market right across London.’

Readers' comments (26)

  • Melvin Bone

    'three homes are empty, 27 are second homes, 18 are occupied by companies and 30 are occupied by individuals'

    How much Council Tax does a company have to pay?

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  • What a shocking level of underoccupancy by the 'occupants'!

    No wonder this government outlawed squatting, otherwise some of these homes could have people living in them.

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  • ManWithAbacus

    Perhaps Mr Jepson should move in.. or Mr Mercer.. or Mr Cowans.. or Ms Ashcroft

    They all got paid over £300k this year!!!!

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  • Janine Jarvis

    ManWithAbacus doesn't get it. The highly-paid executives we think of as wealthy are - for the occupants of One Hyde Park and their chums - little better off than minimum wage paupers. The global elite uber-class really are in a different league - £10m for them is of about the same consequence as £1k for one of our own fatcat CEs.

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  • I have never understood how this monstrosity of a building got through planning. It is the epitomy of the blot on the landscape. Much of Central London's social housing is being knocked down and being replaced by luxury housing with no affordable housing included. A, how does this get through planning, and B, where have the previous tenants gone. I know of one development in Ebury St, and social housing blocks in Palace St are now all boarded up, and I doubt the redevelpment will have affordable housing included. Central London is rapidly becoming a no live zone for working people. It's a disgrace

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  • Gavin Rider

    Melvin - "How much Council Tax does a company have to pay?" I presume they now pay the full amount due for the property, if Westminster is anything like North Somerset Council.

    I have just inherited the Council Tax obligation on my mother's old home, which I helped her to buy because she could not afford it on her own. Although I get 25% single person occupancy discount on my own home, I do not get any discount on the Council Tax for this empty property while I try to find a buyer for it (the rules were changed this financial year)

    Although Council Tax is meant to be a payment for Council services and is not supposed to be a property tax (it is linked to property as a convenient way of identifying the tax obligation of the resident) Council Tax now is most definitely being treated as a property tax, whether or not the property has been bought to live in or as an investment.

    I don't particularly like this change in the rules, because I am having to pay over £300 a month in Council Tax despite the fact that I earn under £1000 before tax each month. So what I am being obliged to pay in Council Tax is more than is considered reasonable as an outlay for housing costs in the calculation about a household's eligibility for Affordable Housing.

    Since this was not an investment that I made just to make money by renting out property, I feel somewhat aggrieved by this change. But, since I have been calling for punitive taxation of second homes and investment properties as a way of rebalancing the housing market, I suppose I cannot really complain too much. I just hope the reported recovery in the housing market kicks in down here pretty soon and someone who needs and wants this home will buy it (at not too much less than we paid for it in 2008, hopefully).

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  • Gavin Rider

    JeanH - just a moment - the developers built 70 Affordable Homes in Pimlico alongside these 86 apartments as part of their planning obligation. So how come you ask "how did this get through planning"?

    I would say that is more affordable housing than is provided as part of any other development elsewhere in the country - the required proportion of Affordable Housing elsewhere is usually around 25-30%.

    It is the high value of these apartments, due to their location and the willingness of corporate buyers to take them, that makes it feasible for the developer to build so much Affordable Housing.

    So don't kick the gift horse in the mouth, eh?

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  • Gavin Rider

    If a company maintains apartments for use by visiting executives and staff members seconded from overseas, because it is cheaper and better for the visitors and for the business than using hotels, how can anyone complain about this? It makes perfect economic sense in the heart of the capital city for the businesses that are present there to make the best possible use of their area's assets.

    Gone are the days when there were lots of big factories based in London that needed a large generally unskilled workforce living nearby, living in cheap cramped housing. There simply isn't as much work for that kind of workforce in London as there used to be - the capital city is changing with the times. So the resident population has to adapt to the changing times and the different employment characteristics of the area too.

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  • ManWithAbacus

    Dear Janine Jarvis
    They may be paupers by one hyde park standards but by anyone else's standards they are simply a few of many 'fat cats'... Their pay is disproportionate and could be described as 'offensive' compared to the people their organisations serve and what is in many cases supposed to be charitable activity.

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  • With an average sale price I assume around £15 million - any apartment bought by a company is subject to 15% Stamp Duty of circa £2.2 million - so why is anyone getting exercised on the issue of Council Tax at a max around £3000 pa?

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