23,000 people in Leeds waiting for a council house
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A meeting of Leeds City Councillors heard how the authority was also losing hundreds of its council houses every year to the right to buy scheme, but that the authority was also in the process of building new council homes to replace them
One councillor added that family-sized homes were in short supply in the city, and that the council needed to focus on providing family-sized homes, as there were a growing lack of these within the city.
Council officer Mark Denton told a meeting of Leeds City Council’s Joint Plans Panel: “There is a significant waiting list still, there are over 23,000 people currently on the council’s housing waiting list. We are delivering 800 homes at the moment, but there is a real shortage of lands and sites.
“We have a number of larger sites we are delivering at the moment. But most of the sites we are involved in have significant contamination or regeneration issues.”
He added that any money made from “right to buy” council house sales to tenants can be reinvested into council housing stock by the authority, but is time-limited and must be sent to central government if not spent over a certain period.
Mr Denton said: “We are still losing 600 homes each year to the right to buy programme – that still generated receipts but we are on a really tight timescale in terms of having to commit those and repay to the government if we don’t commit them.
“There are a lot of issues, but we have tried to highlight work we have done to lead with quality and design and to think about the tenants, while making it affordable.”
Coun Elizabeth Nash (Lab) said: “For years now, instead of talking about houses, we talk about housing or homes – developers love to build flats because they can make more money from flats.
“There is a great shortage of housing for families, so I wonder if we could look at that and identify how many people require houses and how many desire flats – I think you will find that not many people ask for flats.”
Mr Denton responded: “We work closely with housing colleagues to decide on the best mix for each scheme.
“The majority of schemes we look at have a big component of family housing.”
At a meeting in February, the leader of Leeds City Council has called for reform to the way council housing is managed nationally, branded right-to-buy laws “a mess”.
The scheme, introduced by the government in 1980, was designed to help council tenants become homeowners by allowing them to buy their homes with low-cost mortgages.
However, Coun Judith Blake has now claimed this has led to many former council properties being owned by private landlords, who charge higher rents than local authorities.
She said: “This is one of the largest council house building programmes in the country today. But we have one hand tied behind our back.
“Many former council homes are now owned by private landlords. Higher rents are charged by landlords for their tenants than for council tenants next door. This means higher amounts of housing benefits find their way into the pockets of landlords and put pressure on the taxpayer.
“Right to buy is a mess and it needs to be reformed.”