Property developers can eradicate London’s crime through design and innovation

London is a city with two urgent crises: a desperate shortage of housing and an unacceptable level of crime. Thomas Balashev, Chief Executive of Monta Capital, says that the capital’s property developers have an opportunity to directly address and perhaps even solve both of these issues, but only if public money can be properly spent.

At the end of 2023, London was named the best city in the world for the eighth consecutive year. And while Thomas Balashev agrees that London is a world-beating city, boasting as it does such rich history, heritage, and culture, he remains adamant that London is failing to fulfil its true potential.

“I’m a proud Londoner through and through,” Balashev says. “It’s easy to see why it’s repeatedly named the best in the world. But there remain many ways in which it still falls short.


“The city has too much unfilled potential, and there are some core systemic issues which are blocking London from ever reaching this potential. Towards the top of that list is the issue of crime.”

Crime in London

Crime in London is on the rise. In the year ending June 2023, there were over one million reported crimes in the capital, an unprecedented number. Last year also saw underground theft rise by 83%, while incidents of mugging, knife crime, and burglary are rife.

“Rising crime is a clear sign that something isn’t working in our city,” Balashev continues. “But to blame it solely on people’s desire to be criminal is naive, blinkered, and untrue. A city can only reach its potential if the citizens of that city are allowed to fulfil their own potential. As it stands, too many Londoners are not being given this right and that is a big reason why crime is soaring.

“How many of London’s criminals do you think are actually making a living out of committing crime? That is to say, how many have made a lifestyle choice to pursue crime? It’s going to be a very small proportion. 

“A huge number of crimes of the type that dominate the news cycle - such as muggings and robberies - are committed by people who don’t see any other choice; who see no other way of making money; or whose lives have taken a course that manifests crime as the only option.

“The recent surge in crime is intrinsically linked to the fact that every day, hundreds and thousands of Londoners are coming face to face with the impossible expense of the city, exacerbated as it is by a life-ruining cost of living crisis and the socioeconomic hangover of the pandemic.  

“Couple this with the dwindling opportunities to survive an honest life and a lack of safety, community, and earned aspiration, and people start looking for shortcuts.

Developers play a vital role in reducing crime

“It’s my belief that the sense of isolation and hopelessness that many Londoners feel can be eased by giving the city a greater sense of community. Therefore, I believe one way to reduce crime is through infrastructure, regeneration, and placemaking.

“We all know there is a severe lack of housing in London, and we’ve heard endless pledges to fix the issue with building targets that political short-termism means nobody has any intention of honouring.

“Despite this, the current crisis does mean that at least some new homes will be built. We’ve recently heard Michael Gove, for example, promise ‘an inner-city renaissance’ through building thousands of homes on urban brownfield sites

“My concern is that the perceived limits of the public purse when it comes to housebuilding means any new homes will be built as cheaply as possible. As a result, little, if any consideration will be given to the lives people are going to live in these homes, nor how they will be enriched beyond the basic right of shelter. 

“Publicly-funded development needs to take a leaf out of the private sector. Private developments are not shackled by the purse strings to nearly the same extent as public projects, mainly because they are able to charge higher prices for their homes while fencing off only the bare minimum for mandatory ‘affordable’ homes quotas. 

“As such, they are massively concerned with placemaking as well as profiteering. They want to gain admiration and achieve high asking prices and, because of this, they give people what they want and need: they give them a sense of place and community. 

“Why are such advantages not considered important for those who need affordable housing?

Collegiate Regeneration

“I want to see regeneration and development executed with a more collegiate touch, building communities that contain everything we need in one place, from homes and shops to schools, workspace, and healthcare facilities.

“Inside these self-sustaining communities, great things will happen, not least small enterprises, start-ups, and innovation. That’s what happens when people spend time together and see a world of possibility outside their window. The benefits will be shared by the people, the city, and the national economy. 

How will it be paid for?

“An obvious question is, how can London possibly afford such compassionate public development?

“As with anything linked to public money, I accept that it will be difficult. But I also question the ways in which London’s public money is currently being spent: bike lanes, high speed rail, ULEZ. All worthy causes, but all ignorant to the wants and needs of far too many Londoners.

“Redirect some of this spend. Give experienced developers more of a say in how S106 funds and other give-back levies are distributed. Bring in tried and tested people from the private development world and let them guide strategic decision-making. Build place and build community.

“I’m going to be called an idealist, maybe worse. But this is how London finally fulfils its potential and gets a grip on its unacceptable level of crime.”

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