Thursday, 20 December 2007

Murder flat to let again

Recently spotted at Kirkstall newsagents, note advertising:

Flat to Let
Self-contained studio flat
£325pcm Inc. council tax + water
6 Raynville Road, Kirkstall, LS12 2TF

Nothing odd in that you might think. In fact you might be thinking that's quite a reasonable rent for Kirkstall. Maybe you would ring the landlord and arrange a viewing.
What kind of background would this gentleman give you about the property?
For instance the fate of its last tenants?
How would he talk up the benefits of living in a converted pantry at the back of a larger, also rented, detached house?
Could he mention any improvements made since August and the demise of the previous tenants?
Or is the flat still as I remember it, a tiny kitchen, a tiny living/sleeping space, and a cupboard that serves as a washroom and toilet?
Should you somehow be talked into renting this priest hole, you might learn from your neighbours that it's now known locally as "the murder flat", but quite probably you'll not last longer than a few months, as with so many previous tenants.
If you did hear the story, you'd probably wonder how two people managed to live in such cramped conditions, and perhaps reflect that it's hardly surprising one ended up being murdered by the other, who in turn killed himself by driving his car into a lorry.

This tragic episode was widely covered in the local media around the August Bank Holiday 2007.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Cross Green woman 'going nowhere'

Shirley Moran is a homeowner in Cross Green for over 30 years, she now faces the prospect of losing her home to ‘regeneration’.

“In 2005, I found out that the Council was going to demolish 21 homes in Cross Green. My local councilor promised there were no plans for my property.” Then, in September 2006, the Council hand delivered a letter coldly informing her that 51 properties, including her own. Shirley was devastated.

“I still have no idea why they want to knock down my house. There’s nothing wrong with it, or with most of the others they want to pull down. The area has problems, but they’re largely caused by a few criminal families and local housing policy.”

Shirley suspects that her home is to be sacrificed to make way for property developers to profit. The area is very close to the city centre where developers are erecting new hotels, luxury apartments and mini skyscrapers. I feel the city is expanding into Cross Green, forcing working class homeowners like me out of our homes and community.”

Near to retirement, Shirley could lose her home and be given a paltry £70,000 based on the ‘market price’, leaving her unable to buy a similar property anywhere else in Leeds.

“Where am I expected to go? I bought my home in order to have the security of a property for my retirement. Now I am being forced onto the private rented market so that the Council and developers can make money out of selling Cross Green.”

But Shirley is not going to give in. She says she will fight any Compulsory Purchase Order on her home.

Gipton families fight back

In recent years, 100s of mainly council tenants in Gipton and Seacroft have been forced out or evicted, their homes demolished and the land grassed over. While some of the housing was poor quality, the way people have been treated by Leeds City Council and the housing ALMOs managing the area has been both dubious and disgraceful.

On Oak Tree Mount in Gipton, however, two families have stood defiant as the housing all around has been bulldozed: Dave and Elisa Hynes of no.11 and Geoff and Elaine Ryecroft of no.7.

The Hynes and Ryecroft families outside the only 4 houses standing in Oak Tree Mount.

“Back in 2003, we got a letter from the ALMO saying they were going to pull down our homes. ‘Over my dead body’, I told them,” explains Dave Hynes of no.11, who has lived here with his wife Elisa for nearly 35 years, bringing up their 3 children.

“So they backtracked and said we could keep our home. But then in July 2005, they changed their minds and said we’d have to leave.” Having bought no.11 under the Right to Buy in the 1990s and spent £1000s renovating it, they now face being served a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) by Leeds City Council.

“We’ve been offered £8200 for the house—where do they expect us to go with that? A 2-bed round the corner is going for £117,000. We don’t stand a chance of getting a mortgage.

The Hynes family, along with their neighbours and friends, the Ryecrofts, have vowed to fight the CPO all the way. “Why should we lose our homes to allow a developer to make a profit. Why can’t they build round us?”

The families have tabled alternative planning proposals that would enable Bellways to build around their homes. However, it appears that Bellways and Leeds City Council will not agree to this because they will lose money - that's right, they are putting profit before people.

In the meantime, the daily uncertainty about when a CPO might be served, and fear and anxiety over their long term future, plague the Gipton familes. Their semi-detached homes are adjoined to two empty, boarded council houses that could be providing two families with much needed, good quality, affordable rented homes but are instead being left to rot and their gardens overgrow.

1000s could lose homes under EASEL regeneration

If you live in East and South East Leeds then be warned— Leeds City Council might be planning to demolish your home in the near future as part of a huge housebuilding programme called EASEL.

‘EASEL’ is the East and South East Leeds Regeneration Scheme. It is a £1bn 'public-private' partnership between the Council and developer, Bellways Homes, covering Burmantoffs, Cross Green, East End Park, Richmond Hill, Gipton, Osmondthorpe, Seacroft, Harehills, and Halton Moor.

The Council says it wants to regenerate the poorest parts of Leeds. Sounds great, until you realise this doesn’t include the people currently living there. At least 2400 council homes plus many community facilities and local schools could be bulldozed to make way for 9000 new Bellways private houses for sale, currently priced at around £120,000.

That’s why some residents there are renaming it the ‘EVIL’ project. In recent years, hundreds of perfectly sound, brick built council homes in Gipton and Seacroft have been steadily bulldozed. These demolitions have taken place for very strange reasons and have devastated the affected communities.

Now it turns out that they are the first 8 sites of the EASEL project, a fact the Council has hidden from people until recently. Several families in Gipton, however, have defied the Council, and are refusing to sell their homes. Now they face Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs).

This regeneration is based on ‘social cleansing’: kicking out the poorest people in order to make way for wealthier city workers.

All is not lost, however. Some families have vowed to fight all the way to save their homes. George Mudie MP for East Leeds has also intervened against what he calls a ‘land grab’. In October 2007, he organised a series of public meetings in East Leeds to warn tenants and residents that they could lose their home. As a result, over 1000 people objected to EASEL during the recent consultation, forcing the Council to put demolition plans on hold...for now.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Leeds to build council houses for first time in three decades?

This is breaking news from Yorkshire Evening Post
Council houses look set to be built in Leeds for the first time in in almost 30 years.

By Tony Gardner
6 December 2007

Council houses look set to be built in Leeds for the first time in in almost 30 years.

Leeds City Council today unveiled plans to start building properties for rent as early as next year as part of a £2.6 billion bid to ease the pressure on the city's deepening housing crisis. The decision marks Leeds' first commitment to social housing since before the Thatcher era.

But civic leaders warned it will not mean a return to the old days of poorly designed sprawling council estates. Announcing the plans today, the Tory-Lib Dem alliance said exact costs, the number of new properties and areas of the city where they are to be built were still subject to a consultation.

But Richard Brett, deputy council leader, said he hoped the new scheme would help provide 1,000 homes per year until 2020. Housing schemes will be developed on council-owned brownfield sites in a bid to protect the environment.