More than 580 bids for council property in Beeston as Right to Buy decimates housing supply in Leeds

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In the last 30 years the council housing stock across the city has reduced by around 35,000 homes.

It has led to the situation where for some houses in the city there are waiting lists of up to four years.

For other properties that become available, recent figures show there can be as many as 587 bids for the same house.

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On the third day of a Yorkshire Evening Post housing series, we take a look at how the Right To Buy legislation created a massive shift in how to house Leeds.

People snapping up their council homes has contributed to housing crisis in Leeds.People snapping up their council homes has contributed to housing crisis in Leeds.
People snapping up their council homes has contributed to housing crisis in Leeds. | other

It has arguably led to a bottleneck in the council house sector and a bonanza for the private landlords who are cashing in by charging higher rents to match a higher demand for supply.

While some have been cleared to make way for better stock or other developments, a large proportion of this is as a result of the controversial Right to Buy scheme, which was introduced by the then Conservative government - and current city leaders say they are still bearing the brunt of the 1980 legislation.

Last year it was estimated that around 600 houses a year continue to be snapped up by council tenants under the legislation - with only 300 new homes being built annually by the local authority.

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The demand is far outpacing the supply. A check of the Leeds Homes register gives an indication of what a desperate situation house hunters are faced with. There were 587 bids for the same property at Bismark Street in Beeston and 343 families after the same home at Latchmere Avenue in West Park.

The waits for others were in excess of two years.

There was a 148 week wait on Brayton Garth at Whinmoor and 133 weeks at Holtdale Lawn in Holt Park.

And while there is a mixed view about the policy as a whole - it is argued that the RTB set up has let down the local authority.

Coun Peter Gruen, has represented his Crossgates and Whinmoor ward for the last 24 years and as well as work on planning committees has seen how housing has become one of the biggest topics for local members.

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He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Look at buying your own council house. David Cameron has carried that on and so far we have invested £100m in social housing in different streets throughout the city.

“That has helped in terms of provision but every council property that becomes available has more than 200 bids on, so unless you are top priority, anything less than that is four or five years away. Even with priority people have waited two to three years.

“If you are living in overcrowded accommodation, kids are sharing bedrooms when they shouldn’t be because of age or gender or you are surfing on friends sofas the prospect of two or three years is unimaginable and unimaginably damaging to them.

“Then you superimpose Right To Buy. If you have been a tenant for five years or more you can get a 70 per cent discount.

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“Some of our very best properties have gone and we are not able to replace them and we don’t get the full amount of money back from the sales.”

New approaches

Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton has written a report called Building Homes for Britain in which he says RTB transferred wealth to the private sector but to allow councils to start building authority owned properties again en masse could have wider benefits for the local economy.

He says: “If councils had continued to provide housing we would not be in the dire situation we now find ourselves.

“To increase the housing supply we need to invest directly in new council housing, and evidence shows that this would create a substantial return on investment in jobs, infrastructure, growth and social mobility.

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“I never had objected to Right To Buy. If I owned a house and had a mortgage and people had a Right To Buy, then why shouldn’t everybody else?

“I never objected to that, but what I did object to was the sale rates which were so discounted that the local authority did not get enough money back to pay the loan off that they took out to build it.

“And only the best stock was sold and local government was not allowed to build new houses - that really got me.”

Mr Hamilton has echoed calls from many quarters, and also those that are outside of Leeds, to tackle how local authorities are being denied access to investment to build council houses at the rate they once were and are needed.