Monday, October 19, 2009

Tackle This Decadence Head-on

Decadence is an unpleasant charge to throw, but I can think of no better word to describe the 21 empty mansions in Mayfair highlighted in Saturday’s Guardian.

Mayfair and its environs have always been a unique property market. It’s location in the heart of London, quality of property, and prestigious neighbours have made it the UK’s premier piece of real estate for years. Its value transcends the normal workings of the property market. Anybody who needs a mortgage can’t afford it anyway. So in troubled times property investors head to Mayfair in much the way commodity investors divert their wealth into gold.

All financial safe havens attract a minority of unsavoury characters, and so it is here. Attracted by the weak pound, money is pouring in from tax havens around the world to buy up property in London’s crock of gold property district. Nothing wrong with that you might say. But the problem is remote absentee owners have little interest in running or managing their property investments as going concerns, they only care about the capital value. Ultimately their self interest begins to degrade the quality of the area. Decline through greed. Decadence if ever I saw it.
And so it is that 21 of London’s most valuable homes have been abandoned and are falling into rack and ruin. Mayfair is not unique, as I reported here recently; parts of Hampstead are suffering a similar fate. It is for exactly these sort of cases that council’s powers to intervene are so needed. Houses in the UK, however posh the address, are for people to live in, not for decadent speculation and abandonment. So power to Paul Palmer and his council colleagues to tackle this head on.

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