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Pretty Vacant: The negative impact of wealth investment on access to housing in London

Author: Action on Empty Homes

This report launched by Action on Empty Homes and funded by Trust for London shines a light on how property investors are reducing Londoners access to housing.

Informed by the views and experiences of a wide range of stakeholders, the report summarises Action on Empty Homes’ policy analysis and recommendations regarding the negative impact of wealth investment on restricting access to housing in London.

By ‘wealth investment’, they mean investment into residential property that yields profits for investors, whether corporate or individual, without ever providing a home for any primary or permanent residents. For most of the time, much of this type of property remains pretty vacant.

The report explores Action on Empty Homes’ year-long investigation into how wealth investment has contributed to London’s current housing crisis.

This has led to a series of policy recommendations that would help policymakers better understand and tackle the problem of wealth investment in the capital.

  • We need to know the facts and figures to create policy that delivers
    London needs a register of residential property ownership and usage. Only this can help ensure that property is utilised and taxed appropriately.
  • ‘Second home’ isn’t currently a meaningful or useful category
    The second home definition requires reform. It must be established whether these homes are really being used in this way or are actually just buy-to-leave empty homes or being used as short-term lets.
  • Short-term lets are taking property out of residential supply, but we can’t tell how much or control it
    Airbnb and other short-term letting platforms require effective regulation. Their data must be shared with local government.
  • Planning powers are undermined if property built as homes is used for other purposes
    Local authority planning powers need review. It must be ensured, through specific planning criteria, that housing developments prioritise primary residential use and limit homes without residents.
  • Where councils find abuses and wasted homes, stronger powers and faster action are needed
    Councils need new powers to take effective, timely action on London's empty homes.

28 April 2020

Pretty Vacant: The negative impact of wealth investment on access to housing in London