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Politics & Current Affairs

London Charges For Loose Zoning

After buying an emptied four-story hotel in London two years ago, British hedge funder Chris Rokos submitted plans to local authorities to convert the building into an eight-bedroom home complete with indoor swimming pool, gym, and home theatre. The multi-million-dollar renovations were approved on one condition: Rokos was required to spend $730,000 to help build low-income housing for the area’s less fortunate.

There’s certainly no precedent for it in the United States, but it’s an idea not considered too crazy in other parts of the world, particularly in an age when the world’s gilded class have suffered something of a public-relations fallout. Admittedly, the $730,000 for the extra housing isn’t much compared to the renovation expenses listed by Rokos, who also owns a SoHo apartment in Manhattan that he bought for roughly $15 million. The housing renovations, complete with the indoor pool built four stories below ground, are expected to cost close to $50 million.

Australia, where wealthy people apparently no longer wish to live in such luxury, has even seen proposals to convert million-dollar mansionsinto public housing. In 2005, plans were unveiled to turn a Western Australia mansion into a 27-bed rooming house.

As for Rokos, he has chosen to stay out of the spotlight with regard to the story, which sets an interesting precedent in the lush Kensington and Chelsea borough, where local officials have seen hundred of proposed similar renovations in the past two years. One of them was for millionaire tycoon Jon Hunt, who submitted a proposal to the council looking to build an indoor tennis court and vintage car museum to store his collection of Ferraris. Hunt was not required to make the same sacrifice as Rokos, but perhaps the local council saw it fit to make certain philanthropic overtures of the millionaires looking to reshape the famous area, whose residents also include steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal. No word yet on where ideas like this might go, but with excavation requests of these nature expected to continue, we could see some forced philanthropy of hedge fund proportions.


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