Don’t ‘slam the door’ on foreign property owners in London, says Boris

08:15 17 January 2014

London Mayor Boris Johnson is questioned over giving the Met water cannons (Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA)

London Mayor Boris Johnson is questioned over giving the Met water cannons (Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA)

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Boris Johnson has waded into the row over foreign investment buying up London properties by saying it would be wrong to ‘slam the door’ on overseas investment.

Speaking at the annual Mansion House London Government Dinner last night the Mayor said he recognised a ‘desperate shortage of homes’ in the capital, but said it would be ‘utterly nuts’ to pursue any policy which deterred those from abroad from purchasing property.

It comes after Chancellor George Osborne is set to impose a so-called ‘oligarch tax’ on sales of homes by non-UK residents in a bid to cool the city’s overheated housing market.

A sharp increase in overseas purchases, especially by rich investors from Russia and the Middle East, has been blamed in part for spiralling prices.

Mr Johnson said new builds should be ‘marketed first to Londoners’, he suggested, and foreign owners should either live in or rent out their properties not just regard them as ‘blocks of bullion in the sky’.

“But what I don’t want to do is to follow the logic that I read from time to time and that is to slam the door again on the right of overseas residents to buy homes in London, notwithstanding the effect they may have in some parts of prime London on the market,” he said.

“I don’t think that is the right approach.”

He did not refer directly to the tax policy, but added: “I do not in any way want to deter international investment in our city. Quite the reverse: I want to encourage it.

“You can see astonishing transformations taking place in London thanks to international investment.

“We would be utterly nuts as a society if we did anything to turn that away.”

A speech by Boris would not be complete without a gaffe, and he didn’t disappoint, risking a diplomatic spat with Germany by noting that London was now home to a huge number of French ex-pats, quipping: “Any bigger, my friends, and we will have to worry about the possibility of a German invasion.

“For the benefit of all international diplomats here tonight, that’s a joke. Don’t panic,” he added hastily.

Beleaguered French president Francois Hollande also came in for a ribbing, with Mr Johnson - who has himself had to deal with personal scandals being exposed - telling him: “If things get too tough for you over there, just put on your famous crash helmet, get on your scooter and join the exodus to London where you will find, amongst other attractions, a civilised and gentle media who would never dream of being so vulgar as to discuss your personal affairs.”

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