Foreign-Owned Uk Property

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 20th June 2013.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats 5:00 pm, 20th June 2013

Through you, Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank Mr Speaker for granting me this Adjournment debate. I welcome the Minister for Housing to his place and am grateful for the opportunity at the end of today’s business to consider the purchase of housing in the United Kingdom by people or companies based abroad.

When I was first elected—a long time ago now—the London Docklands development corporation was in charge of some of the dockland areas, including parts of my constituency. One of the most successful things it ever did was to have a scheme of building new homes and offering them for sale to people locally at discounted prices—or, at least, prices that did not make so much profit. There were huge queues of people and the homes were snapped up. There was a restriction on onward sales, whereby people had to live in the houses for a certain amount of time, and they met a lot of the unmet housing need of people who wanted to stay in Bermondsey, Rotherhithe or Surrey Docks but who could not afford to live there.

Sadly, the situation is now completely different. I want to talk about the problem first before suggesting some solutions, based on comments made to me once people knew the debate was happening and on documents that have been in the public domain or press in the past few days. Let me start with two e-mails that I received before the debate.

The first e-mail is from somebody in Battersea:

“Good to see someone at least talking about the housing crisis in London.

As an architect, part of my job is designing apartments in central London that I know are being sold off plan to buyers in China.

Sometimes whole developments are sold in a day, with Chinese buyers paying in cash.

That is before they are ever offered to the UK market, but should they ever be offered they would only be affordable to barristers and traders, not middle income workers like myself.

It infuriates me, as I am still in a share house after 7 years of being in London.”