The catchily titled “Overseas Companies Ownership Data” was a recent free release from the Land Registry containing around 95,000 records of freehold and leasehold properties in England that are registered to companies incorporated outside the UK. It’s seen as a major step in greater transparency in the property market.
However, as globalwitness.org analysis shows, 87% of properties owned by overseas companies have an owner in jurisdictions which keep information about the real people behind the company secret. Over 50% of properties are registered in the British Virgin Islands and Jersey, known for favourable taxation rates and specialist financial structures available for investors, and of course their secrecy:
While many properties are registered overseas to either avoid inheritance tax, crime, or to keep owners names out of the public eye, overseas investors are also taking advantage of the buy-to-lets boom. This is a big issue for many English cities and squeezing out local residents from purchasing a home. Last year one development in Manchester has even been marketed as ‘Manchester homes for Manchester people’
The second headline from the Land Registry data is unsurprising. The majority of properties are owned in London:
The Government has announced it will introduce a public register that will compel foreign companies which own or buy property to disclose their ultimate owners. Don’t hold your breath. It’s earmarked to be introduced in 2021, eight years after it was proposed.
In the treemap below I’m mapping the data by each local authority in England. There isn’t an entirely appropriate denominator and the raw numbers in themselves are interesting. I’m mapping the numbers by using the geometrical interval scheme as outlined in a fantastic blog by Tableau Picasso