At the annual Conservative party conference in Birmingham, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that foreign buyers of properties in the UK will have to pay extra tax, with the money raised going towards the rising numbers of rough sleepers.
Mrs May said “It cannot be right that it is as easy for individuals who don’t live in the UK, as well as foreign-based companies, to buy homes as hardworking British residents.
“For too many people the dream of home ownership has become all too distant and the indignity of rough sleeping remains all too real. This government is committed to helping hardworking British residents get the right home for them and helping to end the scourge of rough sleeping for good.”
The plans were announced following concerns that foreign buyers have been taking advantage of Britain’s housing market as a safe haven for their money, pushing up prices in the process. Research from York University estimated that 13% of new London homes were bought by non-residents between 2014 and 2016.
Following the announcement, foreign buyers could now be faced with surcharge of 1% or 3% on top of stamp duty (tax on properties worth more than £125,000) to stop them driving up UK prices.
In the past seven years, rough sleeping has been on the rise with around 4,750 people estimated to have slept rough on any given night in England in 2017. Homelessness charity Shelter have welcomed the proposed funds, saying it is a “national disgrace that so many of our fellow citizens are still sleeping rough in modern Britain”.
The charity has also stated that the housing crisis will remain the same until more social housing is built. In 2016 – 17, about 217,000 new homes were built in England, this was almost a third short of the government’s target of 300,000.
Rough sleeping is defined by the government as sleeping in open air – parks, streets, doorways or bus shelters – or people who sleep in buildings that were not designed for habitation.