How many anonymously owned homes is too many for a city? 100? 1,000? 10,000? How about 39,353? According to Transparency International UK (TI-UK), that’s how many anonymously owned properties are in the London area. Anonymous ownership makes it difficult to check if the money used to buy the properties is ill-gotten, or a legitimate investment. To make matters worse, many are empty, and placing excess pressure on housing prices – driving away the locals that actually work in the city.
Researchers are finding an increasing number of prime London properties are owned anonymously through offshore companies. TI-UK analysts found 39,353 properties registered to anonymous companies, and many are sitting empty. Central London, the heart of the city, has the highest concentration – with over 12,202 of those properties located in Westminster. These aren’t tiny homes either, some of them are whole city blocks, left to decay in the middle of the city.
There’s a global phenomenon occurring where investors are buying homes to leave empty, and TI-UK is calling it “buy to leave.” The organization has noted that many of these homes are being purchased from “those seeking to escape corruption, or hide corrupt activity.” They also allege that a number have been purchased by investors fearing corruption in their home country, or are attempting to launder the proceeds of corruption. (more...)