Foreign Buyers in London

February 18, 2020
Housing | Local Elections

London’s housing market is notoriously expensive. With 13% of the overall British population squeezed into the congested capital city, living space is also in low supply. It is perhaps no surprise then that housing figures as one of the most important issues for voters in the upcoming London Mayoral Election in early May.

In a recent survey conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies of 1,200 eligible voters in London, we sought to test the sentiments on this issue. We asked respondents to what extent they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:

[i] People who do not live in the UK should not be allowed to buy housing property here.

Foreign buyers are a controversial subject for the London housing market. In 2017, Mayor Sadiq Khan commissioned a study which found that a third of centrally-located new homes in the London boroughs of Westminster, Kensington, and Chelsea and the City were, in fact, sold outside of the United Kingdom.

In a volatile global market, investors may see housing in a major hub like London as a highly valuable asset that is unlikely to depreciate significantly over time and can generate a steady monthly income through rent. As such, many companies, hedge funds, and individuals abroad own homes in London while not living in the city and using the property themselves. Some of these properties go on to remain unoccupied.

For the people living in London, this dynamic would seem unlikely to go down well, and indeed nearly half (49%) of respondents agreed that those who do not live in the UK should be prevented from buying housing property here.

Most interesting was the extent to which Conservative voters (60%) agreed with this statement, given that housing is an issue where the Labour Party particularly performs well. This could most likely be due to the more cosmopolitan, pro-immigration side to Labour voters. Even so, a plurality of Labour voters (44%) still aligns with this sentiment. Altogether, this strong response, from voters of all parties and all age groups, provides an ample opportunity for a candidate to stake an aggressive position on foreign buyers in the housing market.

[i] We believe giving a strongly worded, forceful statement is the best means of capturing where the public stands on an issue. It allows us to identify those who feel strongly about an opinion and those who can be encouraged to move towards a stronger stance. It is harder to make these distinctions otherwise. Those polled will always find it easier to carelessly agree or disagree with a qualified statement than with a forceful one.

Data tables for this research can be found here. To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.