Islington council has said it is looking at charging owners for not living in flats they have bought because it is worried about the number of residential towers being built on City Road laying empty.
The mile long road in north London links Angel tube station with Old Street roundabout and will be transformed in coming years with a series of towers by Make, Farrells, Foster & Partners and SOM.
UN Studio’s 31-storey Canaletto building at 257 City Road saw two-bedroom flats being marketed for more than £800,000 when they went on sale last autumn.
The most recent scheme on City Road to be approved was Foster’s City Forum which comprises a 42-storey block and a 36-storey block providing 1,000 homes – a third of which have been made affordable by developer Berkeley.
This was approved by London mayor Boris Johnson this spring but James Murray, Islington council’s executive member for housing, said: “He has waved this development through and let down people in Islington.
“We think the mayor has been fooled by the developers who are going to make a lot of money from this scheme and who we believe could provide many more genuinely affordable homes for Londoners on this site.”
He added: “It’s galling for Londoners to see homes being sold overseas before they’re even built – and it’s outrageous for new homes to then stand empty in the middle of a housing crisis.”
Islington council launched a consultation in the spring called ‘Preventing Wasted Housing Supply’ to address an issue of so-called ‘buy-to-leave’ which it said was a “phenomenon that seems to be particularly associated with overseas buyers”.
The report also included research on six new build schemes which had been built since 2008 and, according to Islington’s electoral roll, showed an average vacancy rate of 33% between them. The building with the highest rate was Mount Anvil’s Orchard Building by David Wood Architects at 51%.
A council spokesman said it had worries about blocks being built on the borough’s City fringes – City Road – but was still deciding on how best to tackle the issue of empty flats following the consultation.
“We’ll have more details in a few months’ time,” he said but admitted charging stayaway owners was one option being looked at. “There is a concern that a number of high-end residential blocks [on City Road] could be sitting empty.”
Last week, former RIBA president Sunand Prasad said developers were not bothering to consider alternative ideas to towers when building new homes.
“There are many, many models that can fulfill density requirements without going over 20 storeys,” he said.