ES Homes and Property
Londoners open their homes to NHS staff
Homeowners, housing charities and developers respond to GLA’s rallying call to offer free accommodation to medics on the Covid-19 front line. Anna White reports
LONDONERS have thrown open their doors to the National Health Service, offering free accommodation to medical professionals working on the frontline to battle Covid-19. Funky flats in Kentish Town, plush pads in King’s Road, Mayfair hotels and even historic buildings are being made available, along with blocks of new rental homes.
With the average London house price now at £460,266 many key workers commute into central hospitals from the outlying boroughs and beyond. Coronavirus and London’s housing crisis have collided — and in response the capital’s property industry must mobilise, fast.
The Greater London Authority has implored both housing charities and developers to hand over the keys to their newly completed rental units, as yet unoccupied. “In a phone call from the GLA we were asked if we could provide flats for NHS workers over the next 12 months, or for Covid-19 patients who are discharged from hospital early,” a construction chief told Homes & Property.
A spokesman for Grainger, one of the UK’s biggest corporate landlords, which has 1,800 build-to-rent homes in London and more than 4,000 in the pipeline, confirmed it is “in
talks with the GLA”. The Westminster-based housing charity Dolphin Living also responded generously. “We have two blocks nearing completion, one in Little Venice and one in Hackney. That’s 140 homes we have gladly offered up to the NHS,” says chief executive Olivia Harris.
Giant housebuilder Ballymore has freed up car parking space for the NHS in Ladbroke Grove and has offered show flats across London, while Galliard Homes has donated a 61,000sq ft warehouse in Essex to store medical supplies.
Property agent CBRE is busy connecting companies with assets and the NHS. Working Londoners are playing their part, too, offering rooms in their homes and in some cases, even their whole homes.
Author and political journalist Svenja O’Donnell lives between her flat in Kentish Town and her partner’s home on the Northamptonshire-Buckinghamshire border. When coronavirus first hit, the couple based themselves in the countryside to be near elderly parents and O’Donnell has now offered her north London home to NHS staff.
“I am currently talking to a St John Ambulance volunteer,” she says. Her two-bedroom garden flat is between Dartmouth Park and Kentish Town. O’Donnell’s first novel, Inge’s War, based on her grandmother’s survival in wartime Prussia, is being published this year. “There is a symmetry between the lockdown and my grandma’s life during the Second World War,” she adds.
Simon Bell, 51, is lending his home in Brixton to an NHS worker. He runs a social enterprise in Sri Lanka with his partner and rents out his London home while they are away. “I just felt I had to find a way to be helpful while I was not using it,” he says.
Homeowners or private landlords can advertise through the new crisis website NHS Homes which matches health service staff and available properties. The website has close to 400 homes available in London.
Meanwhile, global holiday home website Airbnb has 1,500 private homes ready to house front-line medical staff. The company has waived its listing fee for hosts.
There are also more unusual homes on offer. The Landmark Trust, a charity which rents out restored historic buildings as holiday homes, is offering two flats in Smithfields, near Barts Hospital, which date back to 1600. Landmark’s other London property is an early 18th-century flat in Spitalfields which usually costs £1,372 for a four-night stay.
Martin’s Properties, a 75-year-old investment company with a portfolio of rental flats across central London, has pledged a block of one-bedroom homes in an early 20th-century building in King’s Road, Chelsea. These prime location flats above The Ivy Chelsea Garden restaurant have been offered to doctors and nurses working at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Hotels are an important part of the solution as they now have thousands of empty rooms across the capital. Roman Abramovich will pay for NHS staff to stay in Chelsea FC’s Millennium Hotel, while Crystal Palace footballer Wilfried Zaha has pledged his 50 rental properties in Shoreditch, Aldgate and Notting Hill.
Claridge’s hotel in Mayfair has offered £650-a-night suites, breakfast and dinner for 40 medics, while the Royal Docks Ibis Hotel has already given over its beds to the NHS. It is next to the Nightingale Hospital, the new 4,000-bed facility built to take coronavirus patients at the ExCeL centre in Docklands.