‘Leeds needs a housing revolution’

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A Leeds housing boss has issued a renewed clarion call for a self-build revolution to help plug the city’s growing homes crisis – and to empower residents to help transform the urban landscape for the future.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration and planning, was speaking as he launches a brand new campaign urging people to embrace the idea of building their own homes.

It is a sector on the rise in Leeds, where a number of projects have blazed a trail including the pioneering LILAC cohousing scheme in Bramley.

Nationally, the Government launched a £300m fund last year to help drive community-led housing schemes forward and Coun Lewis says now is the time for Leeds to take charge of its own destiny – by taking the power out of the hands of volume house builders and the “bland box” type designs which dominate the city’s new builds mass market.

Coun Lewis has commissioned a detailed study into a renewed, localised self-build drive, with the aim of creating an official register of suitable sites and a self-build toolkit to help individuals and groups to get started with exploring ideas and designs.

“There’s something to self build which is about enabling people to grab hold of their own destinies,” Coun Lewis told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

“The housing market makes us all passive consumers. We buy what’s out there. We get the product that the big housebuilders think is what we want. And so you get an incredibly bland housing offer across the country where everything looks the same.

“We want people building the bits that are different, that will make the city look different. The question is, how can we help people to achieve a goal that has a social benefit too?”

He said the council has a list of land for possible development of self build projects, but demand would be key to unlocking it. A self-build register, launched by the council in March 2016 to help assess demand, currently has 214 individuals and groups in Leeds interested in self-builds, custom builds or cohousing projects.

The sector is growing - and Coun Lewis said the city needs to embrace it.

“We need to create mixed communities, and healthy communities,” he said.

“This is another way of mixing the world up a bit.”

Asked if he believes a self build revolution could solve the housing crisis, Coun Lewis said “it is a strand”.

“It’s something that every European country has embraced,” he said.

“We don’t embrace it. We still moan about what we get but keep on taking the same medicine. I would love it to solve [the housing] crisis.

“It’s not going to. But it is one part of the solution.”