The MIPIM annual property conference has been held in Cannes for the last 25 years so this year’s switch to London caught the attention of many developers, investors and council officials across the region. Yesterday’s soirée with champagne bottles aplenty has been promoted and advertised for some time now with Mayor Boris Johnson opening the event. However, the first day of the conference yesterday was marred by ugly protests outside and there was a heavy police presence leading to a lock down of the building.
Protesters are furious that local authorities are looking to sell off council land to an array of developers with very expensive and very high spec properties in the offing. Indeed there are 400 properties empty in the Olympic Park, East London, although an enormous 24,000 strong housing waiting list in the area, begging the question, how do councils justify selling off these properties?
Is London property only for the rich and famous?
When you bear in mind that some of these new developments in and around London will see properties with a starting price of £600,000 how can the average London worker compete? Indeed, even though the council has negotiated a number of “affordable homes” within these developments experts believe that even at 80% of market rent, tenants would still need to earn in the region of £80,000 per annum.
Quote from PropertyForum.com: “Despite the fact that many experts believe UK house prices will fall in 2015, a new survey today by Rightmove in conjunction with experts at Oxford Economics predicts that UK house prices will rise by 30% over the next five years.”
The headlines may suggest there is more “affordable housing” in and around London but the fact remains that many of these discounted properties are so far out of reach of the general public you have to ask is there any point. London is one of the business centres of the world, a renowned financial hotbed and it has a real estate market with a mind of its own. The reality is that while London is the capital of England, and in many ways the centre of the UK, it is to all intents and purposes a world away from the general UK economy and property market.
Why are councils selling off council property?
It is a scandal that with 24,000 people on the housing list waiting for properties to become available, there are 400 brand-new homes lying empty at the Olympic Park waiting to be sold on to developers. You have to ask yourself why do Londoners pay tax and local authority charges because looking at this from a distance, and with no connection to the situation, it seems as though developers, investors and local councils are getting the best of the deal?
Some critics of the ongoing sale of council property to large scale investors will highlight the 1980s sale program introduced by the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. However, many other leaders and many other parties have been in power since then with the opportunity to stop the sale of council properties until the problem with housing lists has been addressed.
While in many ways this could be seen as the next stage in the “bash the rich” mentality sweeping across the UK during these times of austerity, should we not be looking closer to home, towards the local authorities? It is scandalous to think there are 24,000 people waiting for properties through the local council only for 400 properties to remain vacant and the land about to be sold off. It is perhaps no surprise to learn there are more disruptions and demonstrations planned.
Will we see the MIPIM property conference return to London next year?