Figures disclosed to the Eye under freedom of information reveal that of £600m lent to property developers in the past three years under build-to-rent, a total of £167m – more than a quarter of all loans – went directly to companies in the Channel Island tax havens of Jersey and Guernsey, where any gains made are likely to escape tax. These include:
£25.3m to Essential Living, a self-described “London-based” property developer, to build three high-rise apartment blocks: Archway Tower in Islington, acquired in 2013 via Jersey company Essential Living (Archway) Ltd; Farriers House in Bethnal Green, acquired in 2013 via Essential Living (3CL) Ltd, also in Jersey; and Berkshire House in Maidenhead, acquired in 2012 via Essential Living (Maidenhead) Ltd, yet another Jersey company. The loans went directly to these offshore companies.
The build-to-rent policy (under which these funds were lent) was launched in 2012 by Tory MP and former housing minister Mark Prisk, who left the government in October 2013. The following June he joined Essential Living as a “strategic adviser” on £1,500 for one day’s work each month – working out at a none-too-shabby £187 an hour. In November that year, Essential Living bid for, and won, a build-to-rent loan.