Use extra stamp duty to fund social housing
I spend a lot of my time thinking about social mission.
As a London-based prime residential property veteran, I love what I do. I love my clients and I love the properties we buy together.
I enjoy cutting deals and being at the right end of the negotiating process. I enjoy guiding people through unfamiliar territory towards best-in-class homes.
I'm a lucky guy and I've fallen into something that keeps me happy, keeps me comfortable and keeps me busy.
If I'm honest though, there are only so many homes in the golden postcodes you can buy before the mind and heart start to wonder...
I mean, what's the bigger picture here?
Where's the meaning?
What's this all for?!
Relax. I'm not having an existential crisis.
I don't feel helpless at all.
I just want to get closer to what property can do for society.
In the UK we spend £45bn on defence. £46bn paying interest on debt. And a staggering £114bn on welfare (second only to healthcare and pensions and ahead of education!).
Over the past four years my job has got harder due to a sequence of increases in stamp duty. London property buyers shelled out £3.4bn in stamp duty last year alone.
That's up 230% in the last decade!
Sometimes it feels like my job got 230% harder alongside it.
Added to that, since 1971 the price of the average London home has gone from just below £5.5k to just below £600k.
If the price of a supermarket chicken had gone up by the same amount in that period it would cost £50!
And goodness knows how much at Whole Foods.
But I'm not complaining. We are in the property game and having another good year at Homes One.
I'd just like to know that stamp duty from my industry was in some way being funneled back into the same areas for those less fortunate.
From my office I can see Kensington Town Hall, the labour party's new west London headquarters. There are no red flags flying yet but change is in the air. The Grenfell Tower inquiry is underway.
Let's hope it's the right change.
Being in London keeps me happy. It's the town I grew up in, here and Beirut, and it's those places, those memories that I want to preserve.
London is great because of its diversity. The fact that ghetto and hi-end exist, albeit sometimes uncomfortably, alongside each other. That Notting Hill has its tower blocks alongside its communal gardens and mansions. That Shepherd's Bush has both Westfield and Goldhawk Road. That Queens Park neighbours Harlesden. That the Shard rises and shines over the earthy depths of Borough Market.
If Londoners could afford to remain in the areas they grew up in, I believe there would be less resentment about profiting from property and a lot more social cohesion in our community.
That's what I love and want to protect.
That's my type of conservation.
And it's good to hear Theresa May talking about £2bn for social housing... will it be enough to save her? I doubt it.
Only calling off Brexit could do that.
And will the £2bn for rental homes be enough? Estimates say not by far but it's a start and a real commitment.
Only a fraction of what we spend on aircraft carriers though which is sad. Let alone the minimum payment on our various credit arrangements.
Over the past few years my industry has contributed an extra £300m + annually for the uk economy through new stamp duty.
And quite a bit of it from my clients!
I want my property tax to go to those who need cheaper housing and not to arms and bureaucracy.
That provides at least some of the meaning I need to keep the faith and feel inspired by what I do.