What would Boris do for UK property as Prime Minister?

So, barring any major political mishap, it looks like Boris Johnson will be returning to the House of Commons—with his gaze seemingly set on the Conservative leadership.

During his tenure as Mayor of London, which will come to an end in May 2015, Boris has done a lot for the capital’s property market—from investing £3 billion into building new homes to his direct involvement with several high-profile deals.

But what if Mr. Johnson, instead of just the English capital, oversaw the whole of the UK’s real estate market? What if, in other words, he became Prime Minister?

That trademark messy mop of blonde hair - a possible rival in hairstyle to that of Conservative MP Michael Fabricant.

That trademark messy mop of blonde hair – a possible rival in hairstyle to that of Conservative MP Michael Fabricant.

 
“As Mayor,” says Steve Sanham, Development Director at residential developers HUB, “Boris has been good for London and a prominent figure in making the case for development.

“Having any pro-development figure in Downing Street is helpful, as there is huge potential to reap the social rewards of regenerating many areas of the country.”

“You have to look at what he’s delivered for London—from planning reform, major developments and big regeneration areas,” agrees Charles Mills, partner of Daniel Watney agents.

“From an investor point of view, having strong and vocal political cheerleading is vital. It instills confidence and this is what gets things done.”

Since 2008, when he swapped his Henley-on-Thames constituency for City Hall, Mr. Johnson has earned himself a pro-development reputation.

Deptford Dockyards, one of the redevelopments in which Johnson has intervened and used his planning-permission powers.

 
Last year, in fact, during a speech given to the British Business Group in the United Arab Emirates, he even joked with his audience about being mayor of the eighth emirate.

If he ever became Prime Minister, though, would such a pro-development attitude provide a sustainable level of growth for the UK’s property market?

Ian Fletcher, Director of Real Estate Policy at the British Property Federation (BPF), says it would.

“Attracting foreign investment,” he says, “which is needed to help take the initial risk on some very risky mega projects, is very important, and Boris has recognised that, without this investment, many projects simply would not get underway.”

“If there is a mistake in policy, Fletcher added, “it is that London hasn’t been delivering the affordable homes it needs. In that respect, the Mayor is hamstrung by national policy, which has reduced the funding available for social housing.”

Housing, due to ever-increasing demand, has been a topical issue for the Mayor of London, who candidly—and rather tellingly—described his time in office to The Sunday Times last week as a means of acquiring ‘administrative experience.’

Boris_Johnson_FT_2013

Johnson delivering a speech at a business summit in London, as he has done throughout his time as Mayor.

 
Although he has recently pledged to double the number of new houses built in London to at least 42,000, Mr. Johnson has overseen the average price of homes across the city soar by more than £150,000, an increase—incredibly—of almost 50%.

Earlier this year, speaking about London’s housing crisis on his ‘Ask Boris’ show on LBC Radio, Mr. Johnson urged local councils to ‘whack up’ tax on property owners who have left their homes vacant for more than a year by tenfold ‘at least.’

In 2013, during his speech at the Conservative Party Conference, he also said: “Can I also ask my friend the Chancellor to look at the baleful effects of Stamp Duty in London and possibly elsewhere, which is called Stamp Duty for a reason because it’s stamping on the fingers of those who are trying to climb the property ladder.”

If he became Conservative leader, therefore, as the latest YouGove poll tips him to be, Boris could well some considerable changes to the UK housing market.

But in the private rented sector, despite calls for him to introduce reform to London’s, Mr. Johnson appears to remain happy for the market to regulate itself.

Canary_Wharf,_London_-_Crossrail_construction_Jan_2011

The construction site for Crossrail in Canary Wharf, East London, which is due to open in 2018.

 
As Martin Bellinger, Chief Operating Officer at Essential Living, confirms: “Boris and his deputy Richard Blakeway have been huge supporters of the PRS.

“The Greater London Authority’s target of 5,000 homes to rent each year was an important milestone in political support for the sector, and it will be good to have another vocal supporter in parliament for the value of a professionalised rental sector.”

In terms of infrastructure, Mr. Johnson has already revealed his London Infrastructure Plan 2050, a £1.3 trillion to-do list—including a multi-billion pound extension to the Bakerloo line—that aims to sustain the capital’s current growth.

Requiring year-by-year funding of more than £30 billion, London’s future—unsurprisingly—would be firmly secured if Boris held office at No.10 Downing Street.

Perhaps more interestingly, though, would be whether his repeated calls for Crossrail 2, connecting Hackney to Wimbledon, and a four-runway Thames Estuary Airport hub (more commonly known as ’Boris Island’) would finally be answered.

Special Address: Lord Coe, Boris Johnson, David Cameron

Johnson and Cameron together. When this photo was taken, was Boris already planning his return to the Commons?

 
“I think business is simply crying out for greater airport capacity,” says Ian Fletcher. “Boris’s suggestion has some pluses and minuses, like the other options, but the more options we have the more it muddies the water and prolongs the indecision.”

Like his £24 billion plan for the Thames Estuary Airport, Boris’ leadership has both pluses and minuses—and he is far from immune to the odd high-profile gaffe.

As Charles Mills says, though: “Some could argue his success is the product of an upward property cycle, but, in truth, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes at the Mayor’s office, ensuring the right sort of conversations are being had.”

If Boris became Prime Minister, judging from such praise, you would think the UK’s property sector would remain stable and successful under his leadership.

But as Ian Fletcher says: “Being a Mayor gives you significant autonomy, which is not the case with national Government. Whether Boris can adapt to that remains to be seen, but his boundless energy will be an asset to any Government.”

Comments

  1. grammatteus says:

    Interesting! As a non-Tory who believes truly that Thatcher was the root cause of all our troubles today, finding a conservative politician that I like is akin to seeing a driver who actually knows how to use a roundabout properly: very rare, but very pleasing to find. That Johnson does look up to Thatcher worries me, but then again, most politicians say that (even in the Labour party!) – they may mean different things!

    Cameron is an eejit! Just watch him TRY to answer a question he wasn’t prepared for! Johnson has redeeming features, but for those of us outside London, it is hard to gauge personally just how his policies have affected those under his ‘rule’. Were he to take No. 10 and truly address the shortage of housing in this country and create a proper market for ‘real’ people to buy and escape living with parents or the constant pursuit of ‘enough money to pay the increasing rent’, I’d support him. However, if he wishes to use ‘stability in the housing market’ as a foil for overseeing further rises in property prices, then we will inevitably just see another housing crash and more of the same, maybe even worse. Stability in the housing market now should just mean that prices stop falling. Further rises WITHOUT proper wage increases just make property the reserve of a tiny wealthy elite, many of whom are just billionaire immigrants, or worse still, absentee billionaire property-owners.

    Remains to be seen if he also serves the whims of the 0.1%.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: