NEWS  ⁄  PLANNING & PLACE

Individual overseas ownership of Exeter property triples in ten years

350% rise greater than in Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster, increasing housing costs, reducing home ownership levels and harming housing affordability.

HOUSING   AFFORDABILITY   PURPOSE BUILT STUDENT ACCOMMODATION   FREEDOM OF INFORMATION   ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY  

Individual overseas ownership of property in Exeter has risen by more than 350% over the past decade, with the number of titles registered in Jersey increasing nearly tenfold.

There has also been a significant increase in overseas ownership of Exeter property by individuals registered in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The rate of increase in Exeter is 25% greater than that across England and Wales during the period, and is greater than in areas of London where offshore ownership is concentrated, such as Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster, which has the highest number of properties owned by overseas individuals in the country.

The most recent available data, for August 2021, shows 442 Exeter property titles owned by individuals overseas. A slight fall from the previous year may be a consequence of the introduction of new rates of stamp duty for non-residents in April 2021.

In the same year a total of 492 new dwellings were built in Exeter, but this figure includes purpose built student accommodation. Excluding student and other communal accommodation, Exeter’s housing completions in 2020-21 amounted to 348 dwellings.

Overseas company ownership of property in Exeter has also increased, though not as dramatically as individual overseas ownership, rising by 175% over the fifteen years to January 2021.

This is nevertheless a much greater rate of increase than across England and Wales during the period, where the level of overseas company property ownership has remained essentially unchanged.

Jersey again dominates the Exeter data, with more than half of all overseas company-owned titles registered there. Guernsey and the Isle of Man, both also British Crown Dependencies, and the British Virgin Islands, a British Overseas Territory, also figure prominently. All four are considered to be tax havens.

Student accommodation represents a significant proportion of overseas company owned Exeter property, in the form of both purpose built student accommodation blocks and student-occupied residential property.

At least ten Exeter student blocks are owned this way, and a single company owns 53 residential addresses in EX1 and EX4 alone.

As property titles may refer to houses, commercial property or land, a single purpose built student accommodation block title can represent hundreds of student bedrooms in cluster flats and/or studio flats.

Overseas property ownership is associated with increased house prices and reduced rates of home ownership, factors which contribute to the poor housing affordability which afflicts Exeter.

The Centre for Public Data used Land Registry freedom of information requests to identify property owned by individuals and companies based overseas, extending published data on property registered to overseas companies to create a much more complete picture of the scale and significance of overseas property ownership than has been previously available.

It found that 247,016 property titles in England and Wales are registered to individuals with an overseas correspondence address.

This represents nearly 1% of all property titles, a proportion that has more than doubled since January 2010, and is more than two and a half times the 94,712 titles now registered to overseas companies.

Overseas individuals and companies combined now own about 1 in every 75 property title in England and Wales, with a similar situation in Scotland.

The UK Government was previously committed to introducing a public register of overseas owners of property in England & Wales, a pledge that the Prime Minister repeated in December.

However it recently scrapped the initiative in last-minute changes to a new access to information and accountability policy.

The UK Open Government Network called the decision “contemptuous” and warned that the UK could be asked to leave the Open Government Partnership because of the decision despite being a founder member of the 78 country international anti-corruption body.


 is editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

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