How the global hyper-rich have turned central London into a lights-out ghost-town


79 Responses to “How the global hyper-rich have turned central London into a lights-out ghost-town”

  1. Tim H says:

    Doesn’t Britain have some pretty easy squatting laws?  Even if they don’t…

  2. leaknoil says:

     You really want to be the guy squatting in a Ukrainian billionaire’s house ? The cops would never even be called and your body would never be found.   

    • jacklaughing says:

      Here in America, if you leave your home unoccupied that long some hard-working entrepreneur will come along and strip out the copper wiring, plumbing and the aluminum. Metal prices aren’t regional, so I suggest that the industrious of London might consider giving these oligarchs a reason to invest in the local economy or get the f*ck out.

  3. L_Mariachi says:

    Bond plays baccarat.

  4. Jonathan Roberts says:

    Rich Londoners have been doing the same thing with outlying villages for years, probably with worse effects on the communities there.

    • andygates says:

      Not to mention holiday homes in the southwest, to the great detriment of house prices and village vigour.  I’m blackly amused to see Second-Home Syndrome afflicting Londoners too.

      • Jonathan Roberts says:

        A guy I know grew up in a seaside home in Mevagissy, he’s a teacher now and had a grant to buy a house in the area. Do you have any idea of how much this kind of initiative solves the housing price problem in general?

  5. Jenny Kendall says:

    So Londonites are objecting to being treated the same way they treated The Colonies?

  6. Keil Hubert says:

    So, rather than provoke the ire of other influential Londoners, wouldn’t this be a great opportunity for the new owners to hire trustworthy house sitters to keep the lights on and the local economy suitably stimulated? I volunteer …

  7. SomeGuyNamedMark says:

    They’ll eventually kill the area and end up like the wealthy homes of Detroit.  Fossilized remains of long dead mansions.

  8. Ed Ligget. Tuba. says:

    Wait, so the wealth isn’t trickling down and stimulating the economy?  I’m shocked, I tell you!  SHOCKED!!!

    • SomeGuyNamedMark says:

      But whatever you do don’t tax them.

    • echolocate chocolate says:

      The wealth will only trickle down from the global super rich when we gut them. Cut open their swollen bellies and let their stolen wealth spill out over us all.

    • asuffield says:

      Ironically enough, this is one occasion when it is. Selling expensive flats to foreign businessmen keeps builders employed and pours billions into the UK construction industry. This sort of thing is very good for the economy of the nation.

      Unfortunately, in central London the problem is a shortage of housing, not a shortage of wealth.

      • PeakVT says:

        If it is so good for the economy of the nation, why is the recovery from the recession(s) in the UK worse than the recovery from the Great Depression?

        And it strikes me as rather sad that Brits are being priced out of their own capital city.  I suppose the British elite feel more connected to Russian oligarchs and Middle-Eastern petro-princes than their own countrymen, but I doubt the average Brit does.

      • Ed Ligget. Tuba. says:

        Generally speaking, once it’s been built, the builders aren’t needed again for years or decades.  Builders aren’t in there building new buildings every day.  This isn’t Fraggle Rock after all.

        • Gilbert Wham says:

           Well, clearly you haven’t thought this through: we just sell them re rest of London! MOAR TRICKLES! The Oligarchs will save us all yet!

      • Itsumishi says:

        Selling flats (expensive or not) keeps builders employed and pours money into the construction industry. (Likely rich) Developers will make more if the flats are expensive, the contractors not necessarily so. There is no need for these flats to be sold to the hyper-rich and in fact when the hyper rich buy them and don’t actually live there, they’re far less likely to be spending money than someone who chooses to actually live there.

        This is much more a case of the hyper-rich making other rich people slightly richer with very a small trickle down effect. It would be better for the nations economy if some cheaper (not necessarily cheap) buildings were being built by the same contractors, and then people lived there full time, spending money in businesses located in London, keeping Londoners employed, paying taxes and continuing that money spending cycle going on.

  9. mypalmike says:

    All the world’s top cities are experiencing this phenomenon. London appears to have it the worst, but it’s certainly been noticed in San Francisco, where all-cash foreign buyers are soaking up the inventory of homes just so they can sit vacant most of the time.

    • Jessica Peters says:

       We have it here in Vancouver too.

    • Brad Bell says:

      This may be part of the asset bubble the ‘quantative easing’ is reputed to have created, which many now expect to burst. There are also invisible bank runs out of the EU, ie. getting money out of EU banks and into real estate at a safe distance. 

  10. Kenmrph says:

    I once accidentally wandered up the driveway towards the entrance of One Hyde Park, thinking I was still on the sidewalk.  The doorman politely guided me away. I guess I don’t look like a Ukrainian oligarch.

  11. Drabula says:

    Being a naive daydreamer I often ponder the workings of a true modern socialism. In examples such as this I envision: revolution first. handing mops and brooms to parasitic money-changers with the declaration “sweep or starve”  second and then as part of long-term methods of utilizing the pre-revolution assets of obscene wealth enact creative measures such as: use mansions and penthouses as vacation rewards for heroes of post-revolution construction. 

    Once we truly become responsible for our own destinies we will really need people to give all for the team. If there’s a nurse on your ward who gives 110% or a bin man on your block who routinely helps the elderly properly separate the recycling from the rubbish, there will be uniform ways to nominate such folk for a 2 week stay at the top of a Hyde Park penthouse.Who knows, once the major antagonisms of capitalism are eliminated we’ll all become so kind that we’ll even forgive the oligarchs (after a five year probation period) and if they have been sweeping the floors real good we might even allow them a few days stay in the penthouse that they formerly owned and never actually lived in.Or, we could just sate our thirsts on their caviare-soaked blood. 

    • anansi133 says:

       When confronted with this sort of inequity, there’s a natural impulse to want to jump in and make it right. There is also a natural impulse to punish those who’ve misbehaved. Neither impulse is especially wrongheaded, and they each have to stand on their own merits. But I think it’s important to notice that they are two distinct impulses that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the other.

    • Rindan says:

      Why not just wank it to a documentary on the Cultural Revolution or Pol Pot?  They did exactly what you are advocating and it worked out super awesome.  Communism is a horrible idea in theory and an even worse idea in practice.  The idea that a bureaucracy can manage an effective planned economy should send any sane person into fits of laughter, to say nothing of giving the state the power to enforce that kind of stupid and the obvious authoritarian regime that it unfailingly creates.

      Letting people pick out the ‘worthless’ folks and make them shovel shit is a pretty good way to gut your economy and bring all production to a screeching halt.  Engineers do a piss poor job explaining to a mob why they don’t need to be shoveling shit.

      Personally, I just take a boring old Scandinavian style welfare state.  Ensure that everyone gets enough to to be comfortable, slap down some progressive taxes to fight inequality and fund redistribution, and keep the business regulations light so that you can have a functional economy to fund the entire enterprise.  Boring, sure, but it is better than building fantasies that require forgetting the 20th century.

      • Gilbert Wham says:

         Yeah, that’s probably for the best, really. You know, actual middle-ground. It’s very hard not to keep a bucket-list of people who just need a good killing though, innit? Don’t pretend like you haven’t got one now…

  12. microdot says:

    This is happening to Paris as well. One major effect on the real estate rape of our great cities by the super wealthy is the death of urban culture. Young people make noise and have to controlled by the security forces so the wealthy can go to bed at 11 pm. Paris is a ghost town after 11.

  13. jian win says:

    The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We’ll see what happens.

  14. AllyPally says:

    I feel for those normal families aspiring to buy their $2.25 million homes and being priced out the market. Something Should Be Done!

    Meanwhile, poor people are going to be penalised financially if they have a spare room. But that’s all right, isn’t it.

  15. Vinay Gupta says:

    Pretty funny, given that Londoners have been doing this to Wales and other beautiful areas in the UK for years!

  16. Stephan says:

    Worlds smallest violin for the British Upper Class selling themselves out of neighbourhoods.
    Forgeign gentrifier from Dalston reporting in.


    This is sad but if I hit the Lotto, London is the first place I would buy a house for occasional use.  Hotels are fine but nothing beats having your own place to clutter up and bumble around in.
    Detroit has fantastic houses for dirt cheap.  A lawyer friend has a 6,000 sf historic home with 10 bedrooms and baths that cost less than a shed in London.  Unfortunately, all you get is a house and land.  Functioning city not included.

  18. Ed Ligget. Tuba. says:

    Aargh, wrong spot…

  19. welcomeabored says:

    If I had a large lump of money to invest in real estate, I’d buy property along the coast of the southern third of Oregon, maybe even into northern California.  I never get tired of seeing those beaches.  I could get tired of London, and most of the cities of Europe and the U.S..  I think they’re great places to visit, but not to live in permanently. 

    • squeeziecat says:

      you and Hearst…. Xanadu! 

    • Gilbert Wham says:

       I adore London, but would only live south of the river. Much less hectic (mind you, I live right at the other end of the country, and my city has cows in the middle of it).

  20. GeekMan says:

    This is also starting to happen in Vancouver. Housing prices are already ridiculous, and it’s made even worse by rich people willing to pay exorbitant amounts for condos downtown.

    • squeeziecat says:

      I was just about to post the same thing… a big chunk of the city looks like a glittery ghost-town. 

    • welcomeabored says:

      I saw that years ago along the Inner Harbour in Victoria. Many of those condos are owned by folks outside of Canada.

    • rocketpj says:

       The absurd property prices in Vancouver are why I had to leave the city.  We made out like bandits on the bubble with our crappy little condo, but there was absolutely no hope of owning even an additional bedroom when our family expanded.  So we left.  Most of my neighbours are in a similar boat (now on the other side of a ferry).

  21. Frank Diekman says:

    I wonder if this will lead to a revolt by the upper middle class a la Ballad’s Millennial People.

  22. imag says:

    It has seemed to me a generally sad thing that the best houses all over the world are the ones that are least occupied.  There is something broken with that.

  23. altaylor says:

    It’s a compliment to the UK.  The hyperrich of monarchies and kleptocracies and communist states and authoritarian regimes realize that their own country’s investment opportunities are suspect, and so they put their money in safe investments–e.g. Western real estate and bonds. Why do you think the US can go into such huge debt?  Our bonds are a safe haven.  Same for the UK and France and Germany.  

  24. McGreens says:

    “but for the rest of the year they’re contributing nothing to the local economy”
    Although the owners aren’t shopping or consuming, the sale would have been subject to stamp duty (7% for properties over £2m) and presumably they’ll have to pay council tax for services they’re not actually using.

    But then I guess there’s a difference between “local economy” and “local government”.

  25. Richard Morris says:

    Isn’t this a planning issue? In much of the UK planning restricts what can be built where. Councils write structural plans giving a 10 year plan for how their patch is to be developed, it will include things like the number of new builds and the number of affordable homes. The only problem Kensington and Chelsea is solidly right wing and probably like all the council tax they get from these properties.

  26. gypsydoctor says:

    Reminds me of the ghost cities in China where aging Chinese try to invest their savings in property.

  27. Brad Bell says:

    This isn’t a problem, it’s a symptom. Neoliberalism, now entering an imploding phase, is the problem. It will only end in tears, neo-feudalism, and not being able to afford a nice rat kebab for the holidays.

  28. pohl says:

    Crime.  bands of looters robbing these underpopulated ghost neighborhoods would simultaneously put downward pressure on values, distribute foreign wealth to lower class Londoners, and (best of all) require an investment in security infrastructure (private and public) that would provide a boost to the local economy.

    Every city has  little Detroit in them, sounds like London needs to dig deep and find theirs.

  29. Matthew Suh says:

    Nothing new here … it’s been like that in Manhattan for years. Welcome to the world.

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