Inside 'Billionaires Row': London's rotting, derelict mansions worth £350m

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue Feb 4 18:04:22 GMT 2014

7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the 
house of Israel, and the men of Judah his 
pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but 
behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
8 Woe unto them that join house to house, that 
lay field to field, till there be no place, that 
they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!
9 In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth 
many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.
10 Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one 
bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.
Isaiah 5:7-10

Inside 'Billionaires Row': London's rotting, derelict mansions worth £350m
The North London street where billionaires can 
buy homes, never live in them, let them rot and still make millions
Robert Booth -  The Guardian, Friday 31 January 2014 18.15 GMT
A third of the mansions on the most expensive 
stretch of London's "Billionaires Row" are 
standing empty, including several huge houses 
that have fallen into ruin after standing almost 
completely vacant for a quarter of a century.
A Guardian investigation has revealed there are 
an estimated £350m worth of vacant properties on 
the most prestigious stretch of The Bishops 
Avenue in north London, which last year was 
ranked as the second most expensive street in Britain.


One property owner, the developer Anil Varma, has 
complained that the address has become "one of 
the most expensive wastelands in the world". At 
least 120 bedrooms are empty in the vacant properties.
The empty buildings include a row of 10 mansions 
worth £73m which have stood largely unused since 
they were bought between 1989 and 1993, it is 
believed on behalf of members of the Saudi royal family.
Exclusive access to now derelict properties has 
revealed that their condition is so poor in some 
cases that water streams down ballroom walls, 
ferns grow out of floors strewn with rubble from 
collapsed ceilings, and pigeon and owl skeletons 
lie scattered across rotting carpets.
Yet, despite the properties falling into serious 
disrepair, it is likely that the Saudi owners of 
the portfolio made a significant profit from the 
£73m sale. The records available show that one of 
the mansions was worth only £1.125m in 1988.
The avenue, close to exclusive Highgate and 
Hampstead, is home to Richard Desmond, owner of 
Express Newspapers and Channel 5, members of the 
Saudi royal family, and Poju Zabludowicz, a 
billionaire art collector and philanthropist.
Homes are on the market for up to £65m but there 
are also 16 unoccupied mansions. More still are 
only used by their owners for short periods each 
year. Most of the properties in the most 
expensive part of the avenue are registered to 
companies in tax havens including the British 
Virgin Islands, Curaçao, the Bahamas, Panama, and 
the Channel Islands, allowing international 
owners to avoid paying stamp duty on the purchase and to remain anonymous.
The revelations come at the same time as a 
growing political row over how empty properties 
can help solve a national housing shortage 
growing by more than 100,000 homes a year.
Boris Johnson has defied Downing Street to call 
for taxes to be cranked up on owners of vacant 
properties. He told City investors this month: 
"London homes aren't ... just blocks of bullion 
in the sky." He called for owners to live in 
their homes or rent them out. But the government 
has resisted attempts by councils, backed by the 
mayor, to multiply council tax rates on homes left empty for two years.
The proportion of empty properties on the most 
prestigious stretch of The Bishops Avenue is 10 
times higher than for the rest of England, which has 710,000 empty homes.
"This illustrates everything that is wrong with 
the London housing market," said David Ireland, 
chief executive of the Homes from Empty Homes 
campaign group. "The high values are being used 
as an extreme investment vehicle at the expense of homes being homes.
"London's shortage of homes is so great that this 
feels immoral and dysfuctional. There are 
countless people in inadequate housing and here 
are homes on The Bishops Avenue that could be used."
Unoccupied properties include a mansion seized 
following a high court judgment against a Kazakh 
businessman accused of a $6bn (£4.5bn) banking 
fraud and the repossessed home of the former 
Pakistani minister of privatisation, Waqar Ahmed 
Khan, where the windows have been sealed up with metal grilles.
Other houses show signs of limited habitation. 
The roof of one £10m home, registered in the name 
of a Saudi princess, is overgrown with plants and 
the signs on the ramshackle gates state it is under "24-hour manned guard".
"Not many true local residents live on the road," 
said Anil Varma, a property developer who is 
helping redevelop the former Saudi properties. 
"It is the likes of the royal families of Saudi 
Arabia and Brunei. They buy a property and don't 
do anything with it. No one has lived in some of 
these homes for 25 years and they are decaying. 
When we did the searches on some of them the 
water authorities said they had no records of any water being used."
One resident of the avenue, Magdy Adib 
Ishak-Hannah, an Egypt-born doctor, said he had 
never met his neighbours and believed as few as 
three of the properties were occupied full-time.
Another resident from Iran, who asked not to be 
named, said: "95% of the people who live here 
don't actually live here. It is a terrible place 
to live really. It is very boring and the road is 
very busy. I don't think many people want to live in such big houses anyway."
Estate agents and property developers said the 
avenue was in transition, with apartments under 
construction that would bring life back to the 
area, but said high vacancy rates were inevitable 
in an international market such as London where 
buyers come from the Middle East, Russia and increasingly China.
Trevor Abrahmsohn, an estate agent who has 
overseen 130 deals on The Bishops Avenue since 
1976 through his company Glentree Estates, said 
any attempt to interfere with what owners do with 
their property would be wrong and the housing 
shortage should be tackled through reform of the 
planning system, wresting it from "political control".
He said: "Once you end people's right to buy 
something and do as they please with it you have 
a police state," he said. "One of the things 
people love about this country is its freedom and 
liberal views. You can't start affecting what 
people do with their assets. That is sacrosanct."
Andreas Panayitou, a property tycoon selling one 
of the empty mansions, Heath Hall, for £65m, 
believes The Bishops Avenue is improving and more 
people are starting to spend more time living there.
But he admitted that the derelict Saudi 
properties "really let the road down". He said he 
fully agreed with Boris Johnson that London homes were not "blocks of bullion".
He said: "You don't want empty streets and people 
just parking their money. You need people to live in them or rent them."
But he argued against increasing taxes on 
unoccupied homes, which he said would be an 
"annoyance" that would make buyers choose Monte 
Carlo or Milan instead of London.  
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"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which 
alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung

Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered that shall not be 
revealed; and nothing hid that shall not be made known. What I tell 
you in darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye hear in the 
ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27

Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor's advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend.  
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