One of the great scandals of this age is the Buy to Leave market, where new homes are developed, sold, but are then left empty by their owners for years on end. Why do they do it? If you buy property for, say £1 million and the value increases by 10% each year, after 5 years you can sell up making a pre-tax profit of £500,000. That’s a much better return and more secure than other forms of investment – and you don’t have to worry about pesky tenants.
The fact that there may be people sleeping rough and others in overcrowded or inappropriate accommodation is of little concern because you probably wouldn’t be living locally and increasingly, probably, abroad in China or Russia.
The only people who benefit are the get rich quick investors while precious resources, not least the land, are unproductive.
This we heard that Hastings Borough Council has called on the directors of a property development company to get their act together and sell new homes, which have been finished for over eighteen months, but remain unoccupied. The up-market town houses, built to high environmentally friendly standards, were built by Phoenix Trinity. Phoenix Trinity’s co-directors at the time the development was completed were actress Charlotte Avery and DJ Danny Rampling.
Cllr Peter Chowney, who is the lead member for regeneration at Hastings Borough Council, said: “We are trying hard to improve the quality of the town. For some time we have pursued owners of shabby buildings through our ‘grotbuster’ initiative, and we are also taking action against the owners of long term empty properties.
“These particular properties, a development of ten four-bedroomed town houses close to Warrior Square, were built to a high, eco-friendly specification. But it is very frustrating indeed that, over eighteen months after they were finished, they remain empty, and so we are calling on the property owners to put them on the market now. Hastings continues to get great publicity nationally, and rightly so, it is a fantastic place to live. I have no doubt at all that these houses will be snapped up when they are offered for sale.”
Perhaps the only way to deal with Buy to Leave investors is to introduce punitive tax rates for homes left empty for, say six months, or give power to local authorities to seize the homes, without compensation. After all, some members of the government are proposing giving council houses away to people who are ‘doing the right thing’. Why can’t it work both ways and homes get forfeited by those who are ‘doing the wrong thing’.