A shocking one-in-ten properties in Westminster is owned through an off-shore company, with the identity of who controls many of them currently unknown. This situation exacerbates the significant problem of housing under-occupation Westminster faces, where properties that previously housed local families are used only a few times a year by overseas investors. Such investment also plays a part in the, often under reported, ownership of empty homes in the City.
Labour will push for the Conservative Government to finally deliver on its long overdue pledge (originally supposed to start June 2016 now not due until 2021) to provide a proper register of overseas beneficial ownership to help limit the acquisition of Westminster’s homes by offshore companies on behalf of the world’s oligarchs. A Labour-led council would work with civil society to shine a light on such dodgy practices and work to stem the flow of dirty money into Westminster’s property market that brings shame to our city.
We will campaign for greater transparency over the ownership of empty homes and we would use the proceeds of the ‘Empty Property Premium’ to council tax to pay for a dedicated empty homes officer, while lobbying central Government to increase the rate of this tax on homes left unused.
Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “Parts of Westminster have become an oligarch’s piggy bank with homes in a number of areas left deserted for months on end. Change is needed more than ever to preserve the vibrancy of our local communities and end the shame of Westminster being used to hide the money of those complicit in human rights abuses around the world.
Action on oligarch owned property must form part of an effective UK response to Russia in the wake of the shocking Skripal poisoning. A Labour Council would be delighted to work to see how the proceeds of such sanctions could help tackle the local housing crisis.”