A string of oligarchs, foreign royalty and multimillionaire businesspeople have been revealed as the owners of vacant properties in the borough where the deadly Grenfell Tower fire left scores of people homeless.
Owners of the 1,652 properties listed as unoccupied by Kensington and Chelsea council include a Ukrainian billionaire fighting extradition to the US, a former mayor of New York, a high-profile luxury property developer and a senior television executive.
They include the distinctive former Brompton Road tube station building, once used as a top secret command centre for Winston Churchill, but which has been vacant since it was bought for £53m by the Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash in 2014.
The list of owners of vacant properties includes the former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who bought a seven-bedroom grade II*-listed mansion for £16m in 2015. Once home to the writer George Eliot, it boasts a baroque ceiling mural of Venus by James Thornhill, who painted the interior of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.
More than a third of the vacant homes (603) are recorded as having been empty for more than two years, with the owners paying a 50% premium on their council tax. A further 1,010 are classified as unoccupied and substantially unfurnished, while the other 39 have been unoccupied for less than a year, with building work in progress.
Some of the luxury properties identified as long-term empty are just a few hundred metres from the charred remains of Grenfell Tower, where at least 80 people died in June. Of the survivors only 12 households have been re-accommodated, with dozens still in temporary housing.