They are just the type of starter homes many first-time buyers are looking for. Galliard Homes and other mid to high end property developers are building studio and one-bed apartments minutes from local shops and only a half-hour tube journey from central London. But if you are British, you are likely to find yourself at the back of the queue as these apartments go on sale to investors in Hong Kong weeks before they go on sale in the UK – despite a written promise by the developer to give British buyers at least an equal chance.
But this week, in material sent to potential buyers in Hong Kong, Galliard told investors they could snap up apartments “releasing one week ahead of UK” in what it dubbed a “world exclusive”. Well-off Hong Kongers can pop down to the Mandarin Oriental hotel today to invest in flats for sale at Central House, Hounslow, with legal fees, furniture and letting fees paid.
For UK buyers, the doors remain closed until next weekend, when Galliard launches what is left of the development to the public here.
Only this week at the Conservative party conference, Johnson – whose Uxbridge constituency is just minutes away from the Galliard development – demanded that new homes in the capital be sold first to Londoners. He said: “I want [homes] marketed first and sold first to the people of this country, not to oligarchs from the Planet Zog.”
Overseas buying of UK apartments has ignited considerable political controversy at a time when critics say Britain is building fewer than half the number of homes it needs for an expanding population. In prime parts of London, almost eight in 10 newly built apartments are sold to overseas buyers, led by the Chinese, with many subsequently left empty. But the developers argue that foreign buyers have invested £2bn in London alone, helping to fund 14,000 affordable homes, 16,000 jobs and £129m in stamp duty payments.
Darren Johnson, a Green Party member campaigning on housing issues, said: “The wider issue is that developers in the London market are simply not meeting the housing needs of ordinary Londoners. There should be sanctions against developers who breach these agreements and we need to get tougher on developers in terms of affordable housing. But what we really need is a complete overhaul of the property market.”
“It’s also not just about overseas investors – there are plenty of British people who are buying homes and leaving them empty to sell on later at a profit. But we should perhaps be considering additional taxes on overseas investors, while allowing local authorities to borrow to build more social housing.”