A Tale of Two Cities

MANSION: The Bishops Avenue has multi-million pound homes.

A TWO-CAR parking space in central London goes on sale on average for half a million pounds. Meanwhile, a three-bedroom medieval castle and surrounding grounds in the wilds of Scotland recently went on sale for a similar price. Hmm, a parking space or a castle? A no-brainer you’d think, but nonetheless yet again demonstrates that Britain’s capital is now a playground for the super-rich. 

In fact, London’s already become a city of two halves: the poor and the mega-rich. And by mega-rich, you know who I mean: the oligarchs, moguls and assorted billionaires from Russia, China, Greece and so on parking their wealth in high-end London real estate.

But now we learn that political and economic instability in some of the world’s largest emerging economies is resulting in a new wave of rich migrants heading for London’s prime property market to shelter their dosh,


Countries like Brazil – one of the so-called “fragile five” economies together with Indonesia, South Africa, Turkey and India – seen as vulnerable to the US Federal Reserve scaling back monetary stimulus, because of Brazil’s large current account deficit and reliance on foreign capital.

To this group can be added Argentina, in the midst of a currency crisis, and Ukraine, still caught up in political instability.

London and its supercharged real estate is a long-standing bolt-hole for money fleeing political and financial upheaval because of the UK’s relative stability and benign property taxes.

However, the subject of foreign property purchase is a political hot potato, with numerous reports of expensive houses and apartments bought solely as investments and lying empty. Like, for instance, the multi-million pound mansions on The Bishops Avenue in Hampstead left unoccupied and clearly falling into decay.

The charity Empty Homes claims there are at least 740 empty properties in London worth £5 million or more, the combined value of which would be enough to fund building more than 10,000 affordable homes.

According to a recent YouGov report commissioned by the housing charity Shelter, 18 million people in the UK suffer from depression as a direct result of unaffordable house prices. Given London’s already worsening situation, shouldn’t this be food for thought for all those panicking politicians desperately throwing out titbits to voters ahead of next year’s General Election?


Nora Johnson’s thrillers ‘Landscape of Lies’, ‘Retribution’, ‘Soul Stealer’, ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.com) available from Amazon in paperback /eBook (€0.89; £0.79) and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca  







  1. Nora Johnson wrote about ´Millionaire’s row´, the Bishops Avenue in Hampstead. I had my first baby there, October 1953, in what had been Gracie Fields house, ´Towers´. The rich residents of Bishops Ave. (among them Lord Sainsbury) didn’t like this ´common mill girl´ living there& made it known, so when Gracie left, she gave the house to the Government on the proviso it was used as a maternity hospital! “See how they like ambulances going up and down in the night”. The house was just as Gracie left it, with ballerina wallpaper, a piano dais in the corner, a central staircase & balcony all round the first floor. The bathroom was huge, black tiled, & and the bath on a dais in the middle of the room. Just a few years ago the house was sold to an Arab, who turned it into luxury apartments.

    Shirley Bassey also gave birth to her first baby there in October 1954, before she became famous.


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