Many of the country's MPs will not be returning to Parliament after the most exciting general election in years. Some are retiring, some have been pushed, and others will be defeated at the polls. It will be the biggest clear-out of the Commons since 1945.
A fresh influx of newly elected politicians creates a property rush within the Westminster Division Bell area, loosely defined as anywhere within an eight-minute dash of the Commons.
The most sought-after addresses are close to Parliament in the SW1 postcode, though over the decades many MPs have had second homes in more affordable nearby Southwark, Stockwell, Kennington and Pimlico.
Following the expenses scandal, new rules on accommodation costs have been introduced, and MPs’ living arrangements are likely to be more modest than in the past.
“Most MPs will be looking to buy or rent mid-range properties, typically one- or two-bedroom apartments with lower service charges,” says Nicholas Shaw of estate agent Mortons. “Those with big majorities may think longer term and splash out on something more expensive that is likely to stack up as a sound investment.”
Top Westminster addresses include 18th-century Vincent Square, which lies within a conservation area and has a glorious 10 acres serving as playing fields for Westminster School.
Smith Square, until recently the location of the Conservative Party HQ, is another favourite. Elegant Georgian terraces overlook the baroque splendour of St John’s Church, now a concert venue for classical music.
Running off the square is charming Lord North Street, where disgraced former Tory MP Jonathan Aitken had a home until forced to sell it to clear his debts.
During New Labour’s rule, Westminster — the area — had the biggest injection of new homes since the Edwardian mansion block boom a century ago. Increasingly, the area is seen as a residential neighbourhood rather than civil service land, and is better value than many central London buyers expect. New schemes — big and small — are continuing to sprout up alongside heritage homes.
Nine boutique apartments at a scheme called The Westminster have been launched to coincide with the election. This is a new-build block tucked away in Little Smith Street, moments from Parliament. Homes range from a 718sq ft one-bedroom flat to a 1,899sq ft four-bedroom penthouse with roof terrace and underground parking. Prices from £695,000. Call Montagu Evans on 020 7312 7412.
Ten Rochester Row is nearing completion. This is a sleek block of 34 apartments and has a seven-storey atrium reception lobby. Two-bedroom apartments cost from £965,000. Show flats are open for viewing. Call Barratt on 020 7828 6631.
Westrovia, in Vauxhall Bridge Road, is a handsome red-brick new build. Prices from £650,000. Call Hamptons on 020 7758 8481.
Great Peter House, at 4 Millbank, trumpets itself as the “closest residential address to the Palace of Westminster”. Refurbished rental apartments cost from £425 a week.
Horseferry Road has seen a spate of residential development, including Westminster Green, formerly Westminster Hospital, New Palace Place and Romney House, opposite the Home Office. A high-ceilinged three-bedroom apartment with outside space at Westminster Green is £1.38 million. Call Daniel Cobb on 020 7222 1000.
Cheaper pied-à-terre options abound. One-bedroom apartments in a mansion block or modern development cost from about £375,000, and rents are from £350 a week.
Ex-local authority stock is in demand, including famous “chequerboard” tenement flats designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens 80 years ago for the area’s “working class”. Many were bought under the Right to Buy in the Eighties and now sell for up to £450,000. Less well-off MPs cross the river into Lambeth and Southwark.
Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, one of the early casualties of the second-homes scandal, lived in Peckham; shadow defence spokesman Liam Fox has a flat in Bermondsey; while Labour’s Shaun Woodward lives in a riverside warehouse in Borough worth more than £4 million.
Kennington is popular, with its sprinkling of Georgian squares and Victorian terraces. Ken Clarke, Charles Kennedy and Paddy Ashdown live there. The best addresses are West Square, Walcot Square, St Mary’s Gardens and Cleaver Square. Courtenay Square, a collection of neo-Georgian cottages, is part of the Duchy of Cornwall Estate.
A gorgeous West Square house is on the market for £1.7 million, while a freehold Georgian house in Kennington Road costs £1.1 million. Call 020 7735 9510. Cleaver Square is delightful. Regency houses overlook an open space where locals play boules. Houses start at about £850,000.
New developments include Kennington Park Square, a Barratt scheme of 120 apartments on the site of a former council tower block at Black Prince Road. Resales from £249,995.
Stockwell has been discovered by middle-class families priced out of Clapham. Durand Gardens is a pretty enclave of early 19th-century houses tucked away behind Clapham Road. The old garden square has evolved into a piece of open woodland.
St Michael’s Road is in the same conservation area. There a refurbished five-storey Victorian town house with a glass extension to a 135ft garden is £1.5 million through Hamptons International (020 7498 8686).
The new expenses rules
A new expenses system for MPs will come into effect following the election. MPs will not be eligible for accommodation expenses if any part of their constituency is within 20 miles of Westminster or inside a 60-minute commute by public transport.
The maximum MPs will be able to claim for accommodation and constituency office costs each year will be £40,957 for those outside London and £26,915 for those in the capital.
New MPs will be allowed to claim for rented accommodation only, though mortgage interest on existing second homes will be paid until August 2012.