Increasing taxes on empty luxury properties won’t solve the UK’s housing crisis, but removing politicians’ influence over planning applications could make a big difference, one of London’s most prominent property advisers says.
Trevor Abrahmsohn, the founder of Glentree International, an estate agency focusing on prime properties in north-west London, told Spear’s that taxing house owners who leave their properties vacant won’t help reduce the housing shortage in the country.
‘You’ve got to look at why there is a shortage. There is a shortage because the planning process is too political,’ he said. ‘If you take every empty house of these wealthy streets, it wouldn’t make a dent on the [problem] – there’s not enough of them.’
His comments follow reports by the Guardian that a third of the houses on the most exclusive part of the Bishops Avenue in north London – dubbed Billionaires’ Row – are left empty. In response, the London mayor, Boris Johnson, said town halls should increase council tax on owners of empty homes, but Labour said this wasn’t enough.
Abrahmsohn, however, thinks higher taxes won’t solve the problem, but making sure that planning permissions don’t depend on politicians could. ‘You have to depoliticise planning. It’s the planning inspectorate of the department of the environment that should make the decisions on planning matters, not councillors, whose main concern is getting re-elected at the next elections and who turn down perfectly good schemes in order to curry favours with their electorate,’ he told Spear’s. ‘Planning matters should only be concerned with planning matters, not politics.’
He added that owners have the right to keep their property vacant if they want. ‘We are in a free country and surely the basic right of each individual who has paid taxes to buy assets is to choose to keep those assets underutilised,’ he told Spear’s.
‘Why should this be any different than with other assets? If the owner of a boat hasn’t used it in the past nine months, are we going to confiscate it because some people need accommodation? And if somebody says, “My family can’t get around and public transport is not easy but this man hasn’t used his car,” are we going to confiscate his car?’
Read more on Abrahmsohn’s stance on Capital Gains Tax from Spear’s