There is a raging debate at the moment about the social ramifications of empty homes and commentator Boris Johnson, as well as others, is talking about applying punitive council taxes on the owners for keeping a property empty for a prolonged period.
My view is quite clear since there is a very delicate line between having sympathy for the homeless yet allowing home owners to do as they please with their own property in a free, liberal country such as the UK.
It has to be inherent in this country for asset owners, who have paid their taxes, to decide whether to live in the property or not. One has to be very careful here since this could apply to other assets such as cars and boats and before you know it you have inadvertently designed yourself a police state.
In the Bishops Avenue, due to political unease in owners own countries, certain properties have been abandoned for many years but others are awaiting planning consent and are struggling through the morass of the planning procedure that is deep in political distraction and where a straight forward planning process that goes to an appeal can take several years to adjudicate.
It is highly unlikely, for example, that any contentious planning decisions would be made in the run-up to any election for fear of alienating voters.
For some reason the Planning Department of Barnet Council do not see Bishops Avenue as a place for apartments and the only ones that exist there are the ones where the Council had ‘Hobson’s choice’ where the existing entity was so awful that apartments, in their view, had to be preferable.
Apartments bring a welcome community spirit to this road that is ‘peppered’ with large mansions that inevitably are owned by transient, international residents.
The commentators should, rather than complaining about the homeless and propagating the confiscation of empty homes, apply their energies to making the planning process efficient, less political and more productive then there will be additional private homes built but, perhaps more importantly, affordable ones.
Also, if you aid and abet the lending process for responsible residential development, rather than the piecemeal process that currently exists, it will free up development finance and low and behold, before you know it, there will be the building of more private and social housing to meet the countries quota of new homes.
The three draconian changes to Stamp Duty in the 2012 Budget together with the specter of Mansion Tax are having their very worst effect at the higher end of the property market that is practically in recession at the moment. This sector does not need any further bashing even by well-intentioned critics. Lest you forget, if this malaise cascades down to the lower price ranges you will have a massive property slow down that will not benefit the UK economy, job creation or the fledgling recovery.