This Thursday (29th October) the Yorkshire Evening Post will be hosting a forum of public, private and charity-sector representatives to discuss the housing crisis in Leeds, and they are asking members of the public to submit comments and questions on housing to be put to the panellists. This is an excellent opportunity for Leeds residents to make their views and concerns known, so please send your questions/letters by email to firstname.lastname@example.org , by Twitter at @LeedsNews , or online via yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk . There is some background information below to help you write your questions or letters.
Also on Thursday, at 6pm, the group Taking Soundings is hosting a public discussion about the housing crisis at Broadcasting House, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9EN. The topic will be introduced by Quintin Bradley, lecturer in Planning and Housing, so will be a good opportunity to learn more about the issues we’re facing around the shortage of decent affordable homes, and to discuss what can be done.
Background to the events
Here are some statistics published today by the YEP:
There are currently around 25,000 households on the waiting list for a council property in Leeds, but only around 4,500 council homes on average are let each year (with a further 1,000 nominations to housing associations). So far this year the council has received over 70,000 expressions of interest, with only 1,113 properties becoming available. 1,930 Leeds residents have been waiting for 5 – 10 years, and 1,608 people have been waiting for over 10 years.
As we know, a large number of households renting in both private and council sectors are seriously overcrowded and/or live in poorly-maintained properties which are expensive to heat, environmentally unsustainable and,at least in the case of private (and also often housing association) properties, are unaffordable for many people to rent. High rents are a further factor in overcrowding, with many tenants in the private sector being forced to share cramped accommodation. The council says they are planning for 66,000 new homes to be built by 2028 (another 13 years!), but it is unclear who will benefit as it is likely that few of these will be available at truly affordable rents.
In the meantime, social housing tenants (many with serious illnesses or disabilities) continue to suffer from the bedroom tax; and the impact of lowering the overall household benefit cap, and the expected cuts in tax credits and levels of ESA (for people in the Work Related Activities Group) will see thousand more being unable to pay their rent. We have yet to hear how the council and other social housing providers are planning to deal with those who fall behind with their rent, or how the changes in benefits will affect the lettings policies of housing associations. Furthermore, the extension of the “right to buy” to housing association tenants (with councils being expected to fund the subsidies to buyers through sell-offs of council properties, will put even more severe strain on the city’s housing stock.
There has never been a more critical time to campaign for more decent and affordable rented housing: for rent controls and enforcement of standards in the private sector; for a renewed programme of council house building; for the reversal of benefit cuts and for a housing policy based on the needs of ordinary people, not of private and corporate profit.
Please get your voice heard by contacting the YEP now; and come along to the event with Quintin Bradley on Thursday to learn more.
The next Hands Off Our Homes meeting is next Wednesday, at 7pm at the UNISON offices, 160A Woodhouse Ln, Leeds LS2 9EN. Please join us and get involved.