Property growth in central London has been driven in large part by international buyers which has brought frustration to locals who have witnessed home prices spike beyond affordability. The international investors are typically from Asia, Middle East and Russia who often buy flats and other residential properties before construction has started. Also not helping Londoners is the scarcity of affordable homes in a market that caters to the prime real estate market in new-builds and regeneration of older buildings.
As a result workers in London are forced to go further out of the city to find affordable housing and it appears they must move quickly as foreign investors are purchasing residences especially new builds in these areas with many possibly for the buy-to-let sector.
One area experiencing this purchasing predicament is the north London town of Harrow-On-The-Hill. Access to the city on the Metropolitan Line and new property investments has made the location increasingly popular.
New apartment developments are currently being constructed in the Harrow city centre and another apartment block is going up adjacent to the Harrow-On-The-Hill tube station. getwestlondon reports the development known as Harrow Square has seen buyers from Shanghai, Hong Kong and The British Virgin Islands quickly buying into the developments.
It has been reported by Land Registry that one out of 18 homes that have sold has been bought by a local resident or 6% of the property. The Harrow Council has an agreement that 51 of the 318 homes be priced as ‘affordable’ with five of the units being wheelchair accessible.
The foreign buyer situation has not gone unnoticed by Labour MP for Harrow West Gareth Thomas. As 90% of the flats so far have been bought by outside investors the MP recently said in a local report: "We don't need expensive flats that will be left empty by foreign investors, we need properly affordable homes for Harrow residents.’
He continued by saying: ‘I've already pushed in Parliament for local residents to get first priority for new homes, and will continue to fight for the homes we need.’
Property prices in Harrow Square start at £304,500 for a studio apartment to £644,000 for a two bedroom flat.
As part of the development for the city centre for Harrow Square the developers plan to build a new 1,450 sq m library and the goal of the areas regeneration “...will not only provide much needed new homes, but will also be a focal point for the rejuvenated town centre”.
One development is being constructed on Gayton Road and is expecting completion by 2019 is Austen House. An exclusive launch of the property was presented in Hong Kong in February and once again MP Gareth Thomas was quoted as saying :
’Over the last few years, many more Harrow residents have been to my advice surgery to talk about the difficulties they've experienced in finding an affordable home in the area they've always lived in. So it really sticks in the craw to find that new properties being built in central Harrow are being marketed in Hong Kong before local residents get a chance.’
But Harrow Council's leader, Cllr Sachin Shah, attending the Harrow Square development ground breaking ceremony said:
'The housing crisis is the single biggest barrier to prosperity, growth and fairness facing Londoners today.’
'That is why I am pleased that the ambitious Harrow Square project will deliver 318 much needed houses. I am also delighted to hear that 20% of the staff and operatives currently employed on site are local residents.'
'We must make sure than everyone in Harrow gets a benefit of the regeneration.'
'As part of this development, there will be a new library and separate library pavilion facilities for our residents to enjoy. The public space will include a climbing wall and artwork generated from one of the colleges in the borough.’
A representative of developer Barrett London told getwestlondon:
‘Barratt London is committed to a UK first policy, and our Harrow Square development launched in October 2016 to local buyers and the wider UK market.’
‘We have always offered a variety of incentives at our schemes such as furniture packs, stamp duty savings and annual travel cards to all buyers, whether owner occupiers or investors.’
Initial offerings at Austen House include 1-bedroom apartments priced from £359,000, 2-bedroom apartments priced from £467,500, and 3-bedroom apartments priced from £550,000.
The construction on Gayton Road of 230 new homes on Gayton Road is on property that was once the home to the Harrow Library, an apartment block and a car park. The development by Fairview New Homes is called Lexicon and is offering studio, 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units with the convenience of a brief walk the tube station and Harrow town centre.
Jim Holliday, Sales and Marketing Director for Fairview, is quoted as saying: ‘This development will provide quality studio to 3-bedroom apartments, all with a private balcony or terrace, in an excellent location.’
‘Our residents will be living a short walk away from the shops of Harrow town centre and Harrow-on-the-Hill station, with its excellent connections via the Metropolitan line and mainline services.’
‘Building work is underway on site, with our first residents set to move into their apartments in summer next year.’
Available units on Fairviews website currently shows offering home prices from £499,000 to £585,000.