Mayor Boris Johnson is facing accusations of “trying to have it both ways” after his official promotions agency set out plans to market homes to ‘high net worth’ Chinese buyers despite his own pledge to put Londoners first.
The latest London & Partners business plan sets out proposals “to develop long term relationships with high net worth individuals (HNWIs) from fast growing, emerging markets by providing a range of services which encourage them to visit, invest, study and spend in London.”
The document goes on to say: “The project will initially be focused on HNWIs from China with net investable assets of £10m – £50m. There are currently estimated to be 63,500 Chinese with net assets greater than £10m and this number is expected to double by 2020.”
The issue of investors buying property in the capital has gained greater prominence in recent months as politicians from across the political spectrum have expressed concern that Londoners are being priced out of home ownership.
Last month the Mayor told the Mansion House Local Government Dinner that new homes should be “marketed first to Londoners”.
The discrepancy between the Mayor’s words and the planned L&P campaign has been criticised by Darren Johnson, a Green Party member on the London Assembly.
Although L&P isn’t directly controlled by the Mayor, he appoints members of its board and the agency’s funding agreement with City Hall requires the Mayor to approve its business plan before each year’s grant is released.
Assembly Member Johnson said: “The Mayor is trying to have it both ways, saying in public that he will put Londoners first while he works hard behind the scenes to encourage overseas investors. The Mayor should be drumming up investment into productive businesses, leaving homes to be bought by the people who actually want to live in them.
“Two thirds of new homes in London are sold to investors. It doesn’t matter whether they are from China or Kent, they are all driving up prices. Instead of encouraging this, the Mayor should promote policies like land value taxation to reduce demand.”
A spokesperson for the Mayor said: “The Mayor is on the record and very clear about his view that new properties should be marketed to Londoners first, and he recently supported a new voluntary commitment from the Home Builders Federation to ensure that developers give UK buyers every possible opportunity to buy new build homes in the capital.
“However he has no intention of slamming the door on the right of overseas individuals to study, travel, spend money, buy homes and invest in London. Billions of pounds of international investment from China and other nations is being used to regenerate large swathes of the capital and the Mayor believes it would be both incredibly stupid and irresponsible to turn that away.”