Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Housing crisis for Londoners: London Real Estate Forum 2014, Champagne reception, Mayor Boris Johnson

The Mayor of London treats developers and estate agents to a shorter than usual flute of his blurt and bluster. Is Boris Johnson worried about the failure of developer-led regeneration to build enough homes for Londoners? 

The second London Real Estate Forum opens in Berkeley Square
© London Intelligence

Mayor of London Boris Johnson (right) arrives at LREF 2014...with water
© London Intelligence

Bluster's last stand?

Mayor of London Boris Johnson bombastically opens the second annual London Real Estate Forum on a butterscotch sunshine evening in Berkeley Square (Tuesday 10 June), writes Paul Coleman.
Developers and landowners, according to LREF organisers at least, come to this year’s event “offering investment opportunities”.
Clinking champagne and wine glasses, they listen avidly to water-sipping Johnson, their powerful, avuncular and jocular chum from City Hall.
LREF organisers also claim Johnson’s audience includes potential investors seeking profitable residential or commercial projects. 
They promise two days of "intense debate and deals".

Beaver-led regeneration
Johnson’s surpasses his own bizarre oratory standards. His speech about property development-led regeneration in London cavorts choc-a-bloc with wacky references.
Johnson likens developers in London to “bright-eyed, bushy-tailed beavers emerging from hibernation”.
And, in turn, developers and their towers, like The Shard, ‘Walkie Talkie' and “the Ladyshave” – (the Mayor’s nickname for the Strata Tower), attract “exotic species, including seventy-two billionaires, from all over the world to London’s Serengeti watering hole”.
“London is to the billionaire as the jungles of Sumatra are to the Orangutan,” chunters Johnson. “London is their natural breeding habitat. You can hear them at dusk pan-tooting their mating cries up in Berkeley Square’s trees.”
“London is the greatest city on Earth – and everyone wants to live here.”

Of course, not everyone can afford to live in London – especially Londoners on average and lower incomes. Dropping the tuck-shop thief smirk for a jot, Johnson tells his audience of developers and estate agents: “We all have to recognise that we live in a city where there are still huge numbers of children growing up in poverty – and we’ve deprivation in colossal quantities.
“There’s childhood illiteracy on a scale, I think, that shames our city. 
But, above all, we have large numbers of people – and not just those in need of social housing – but those in the middle who cannot afford to live anywhere near their place of work. We have a duty to address that problem.”

Johnson rumbles forth: “But how do we solve that chronic inequality?"
Of course, it’s a rhetorical question – and Johnson’s answer reveals his underlying concern about poverty and inequality in London.
Chiefly, this concern rests on a fear that political opponents could, if elected, introduce radical wealth redistribution measures.
The possibility of such a political occurrence seems remote. 
But it’s interesting to see just how much a remote possibility frightens politicians like Johnson and his political chums. 

Tax bankers
“Do we say to those exotic billionaires arriving in London – ‘push off, hop off you Frogs?’ Should we put some swingeing new tax – a mansion tax - on property?
Do you want to tax the bankers out of town?
No, I don’t want to see that.
The way to sort this problem is to help the poorest and needy by helping them tackle their education –and above all, by getting them into work.”

As a tentative footnote, Johnson gently chides his audience of developers and property agents: “And, by us together building enough homes for them to live in. 
Because frankly, we’re not doing enough.
So let build homes that Londoners need, for Londoners.
Homes that will be venerated in fifty years time.”

Is the Mayor of London worried? © London Intelligence 2014


LREF 2014 ‘area briefings’ staged over 11-12 June include:

  • Stratford and the Royal Docks
  • Old Street and Shoreditch
  • Victoria
  • King’s Cross & Euston
  • City of London
  • Canary Wharf, Greenwich and Lewisham
  • West London
  • Croydon
  • Southbank & SE1
  • Nine Elms and Battersea
  • Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury
  • Covent Garden and Seven Dials
  • The West End

Developers and property market players exhibiting at LREF include: Barratt Homes, Canary Wharf Group,Derwent London, Grosvenor, Helical Bar, Henderson Global Investors, Lend Lease, Quadrant Estates, Quintain, City of London Corporation, and The Crown Estate

LREF delegates pay £425 + VAT per day.

The LREF is supported by the Mayor of London, Financial Times and the City of Westminster – and claims its ‘headline partners’ as Cushman & Wakefield, Jones Lang LaSalle and Knight Frank.

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, June 2014

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