Thursday, 28 August 2008

House prices dip 10.5% in 12 months

Annual house price falls hit double digits during August for the first time in nearly two decades, figures showed.

The average UK property has lost 10.5% of its value during the past 12 months, the biggest drop since the final quarter of 1990, when the market was in the grips of the last house price crash, according to Nationwide Building Society.

Prices fell for the 10th month in a row during August as potential buyers continued to shun property in the face of the market downturn and the mortgage drought.

The rate at which values are sliding also accelerated during the month with prices falling by a further 1.9% in August following drops of 1.5% and 0.9% in July and June respectively.

The average property in the UK is now worth £164,654, after losing £19,244 of its value since August last year, with 10.3% wiped off prices since the beginning of 2008 alone.

The recent price falls are likely to have pushed many people who bought homes with deposits of only 10% or less between August last year and the beginning of 2008 into negative equity.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said it was likely around 300,000 people now owed more on their mortgage than their property was worth, and he warned that the figure could quadruple if price falls continued over the next year.

The latest housing market data received a gloomy reception from economists with many warning there was likely to be worse to come.

Jorg Radeke, an economist at the centre for economics and business research, said: "Today's figures defy hopes that the housing market is bottoming out any time soon."

Seema Shah, property economist at Capital Economics, said: "The sharp decline in house prices persisted into August as weak buyer confidence and tight lending criteria continued to weigh on the market. Unfortunately, with the economy set to contract over the next year, the outlook for the housing market remains bleak."

Affordable housing scam in EASEL

Hands Off Our Homes has discovered that the cheapest house available in the first phase of the EASEL Regeneration Scheme is a 2-bed mid-terrace Townhouse in Seacroft going for a whopping £117,950!!!

Yes, that's right, the so-called 'affordable housing' that EASEL promises is nearly £120k. How many people in East Leeds are going to be able to afford that?

So, if you can get a 80% mortgage (assuming you have a clear credit rating, which is unlikely if you have been a council tenant), you will need to have £23,600 deposit plus a mortgage arrangement fee (£1000), plus solicitors fees and other costs to buy this home, and you'll then have to find £600-odd a month to pay your mortgage. And you really don't want to miss those payments at the moment given the huge rise in repossessions.

We think this is a shocking betrayal of what the Council promised for the people of East Leeds.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Leeds property sector enjoying boom - YEP

20 August 2008

PROPERTY sales might be falling through the floor but lettings of city-centre flats are going through the roof, according to agents in Leeds.
While less than a year ago forecasters were warning there would be a huge oversupply of apartments in the heart of Leeds, since the credit crunch put the brakes on many schemes, the city's letting agents say there could well be an undersupply.


And it looks like the days of a flat in Leeds being seen as a cheap option could soon be over, as rents rise in line with the increasing demand for a limited number of homes.

Jonathan Morgan, of Morgans City Living, said lettings with the firm were up between 30 and 40 per cent on last year. He has recruited extra staff and extended opening hours to cope. Mr Morgan, the first estate agent to deal exclusively in the fledgling flats market 11 years ago, said: "People recognise that at the moment if they are serious about moving they are making very quick decisions because if they don't, flats they look at have gone and they have to go back and start looking again."

He added: "Believe it or not the challenge we may face in five years time is undersupply."

As revealed by the YEP, thousands of homes planned for the city centre have been axed. The credit crisis has pushed up the cost of mortgages and first-time buyers need to find deposits of 10 or even 25 per cent to get the best rates from some lenders – equating to more than £30,000.

Mr Morgan said a random sample of 80 Morgans properties had shown rents had risen 2.5 per cent between April 2007 and April 2008 and that was expected to increase to around four to five per cent this year. A typical one-bedroom flat without parking in Leeds city centre is now a minimum of £600 a month, while a two-bedroom pad with parking is £825 upwards.

Hayley Miles, sales and lettings manager for King Sturge, Leeds, said this was the first year the firm had offered a lettings service but it was three times busier than expected and rents were starting to rise. She said: "There's always been talk of an oversupply in times gone past but in fact we still have few properties in Leeds city centre compared to other cities." Miss Miles added: "The future development pipeline has dramatically reduced due to the mothballing of a number of high-profile schemes so there's going to be less stock coming on the market over the coming years."
She said: "If the letting market continues to boom the way it is, it's conceivable that the demand could outstrip the supply."


James Douglas, of Leeds city centre online estate agent nest, said the firm had had its best year yet, taking on extra staff to cope with demand and reporting record profits.He said: "nest is open seven days a week – til 8pm five days a week.
"This year we are up probably 35 to 40 per cent compared to last year."

Mr Douglas, 29, said: "People who had put aside £800 or £900 a month for a mortgage are thinking they're not going to get that mortgage but they're still aspiring to live in nice properties even now they can't buy them." He added: "Now that we are having to work with what we've got to hand there will be an undersupply."

Andrew Carter, deputy leader of Leeds City Council and executive member for development, said the vacancy rate for city-centre flats was around 11 per cent, which he described as "pretty good". Estate agents sold an average of 15 properties in the three months to the end of June, figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) show.

That is nearly 40 per cent below the same period last year and the lowest figure since records began in 1978. Even during the depths of the 1991 housing crash agents sold 26 properties in any three-month period.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said nationally instructions to let properties had increased at their fastest pace since its survey began, during the three months to July. Overall 43 per cent more chartered surveyors reported seeing a rise in the number of new landlord instructions than those who saw a fall, up from 30 per cent the previous quarter.

Record numbers being evicted in Leeds - YEP

20 August 2008
By Mark Hookham
Political Editor

THE number of homeowners facing eviction for failing to meet mortgage payments in Leeds has jumped by a third.

A total of 319 mortgage repossession orders were made by the county court between April and June this year – up by 33 per cent on the second quarter of last year. The Ministry of Justice figures provide worrying evidence about how the credit crunch is impacting on the poorest households in the city.

A mortgage repossession order is granted by a court and entitles the claimant – usually a lender – to apply to have the occupier evicted. Not all orders result in the properties actually being repossessed because homeowners and lenders can still negotiate a compromise to prevent eviction.

The number of mortgage repossession claims – the earlier first stage of the repossession process – has also increased in Leeds by 6 per cent, with 432 claims made in the second quarter of this year. Similarly, the number of claims jumped by 33 per cent in Pontefract, 27 per cent in Wakefield and 23 per cent in Dewsbury between April and June this year compared to 2007.

Across England and Wales there were 39,078 claims in the courts for the three month period, up 17 per cent. The number of repossession orders made by the courts nationally rose by 24 per cent to 28,658.

Housing Minister Caroline Flint said: "While we are not seeing repossessions on the same scale as the early 1990s, we are making sure the right advice and support is available for the minority of borrowers who may need it at the moment because of global economic pressures."

Earlier this year Ms Flint announced a package of measures to help those who face losing their homes, including free legal representation at county court.

But Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable warned: "The level of growth of repossession orders suggests we are on track for a repossession crisis very similar to the early 1990s.

"It is absolutely vital that the Government should intervene and require a proper code of conduct to be implemented by mortgage lenders."

Last week lenders' data for actual repossessions also showed a leap in numbers. In a further worrying development, the British Chamber of Commerce yesterday became the first business group to forecast that Britain would fall into recession. It predicted the economic slump will force unemployment to soar by between 250,000 and 300,000 in the next two to three years, adding that total unemployment of more than 2 million could not be ruled out.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

YEP - Is Leeds' flats boom over?

Nearly 800 homes will not now be built at Manor Road/Sweet Street, Holbeck, Leeds.
19 August 2008
By Debbie Leigh
New figures obtained by the YEP today show a dramatic fall in the number of city-centre flats being built.

Of the 12,700 apartments in the pipeline at the beginning of last year, 7,170 units have been axed or mothballed – equivalent to seven and a half Lumiere skyscrapers.
That means 4,250 flats delayed or ditched in addition to high-profile schemes which have recently fallen victim to the credit crunch like Spiracle, Kissing Towers and Lumiere.

Over five years Leeds had become a symbol of the building boom, known for the number of cranes on its skyline but there were fears the market had reached saturation point.

With the credit crunch making mortgages hard to get and little funding available for residential building projects, many developers cited "current market conditions" as the reason for shelving their schemes.

Units that will not be built include:

1,009 flats at Temple Works, Holbeck;
788 homes at Manor Road/Sweet Street, Holbeck;
584 apartments at Caddick Development's Quarry Hill project;
490 homes at Brunswick Place;
Between 280 and 330 flats at MEPC's Wellington Place;
272 apartments at the Mayfair scheme at Cropper Gate.

Delayed schemes include:
720 units at Crosby Lend Lease's Latitude site, on Globe Road
57 flats at Manor Road.

A spokesman for Kenmore Property Group said it was looking to amend its plans for Cropper Gate, swapping the homes element for commercial uses as Leeds was "probably oversupplied now in terms of residential schemes".

And when Castelmore abandoned its scheme at Brunswick Place it blamed a lack of appetite for large-scale mixed-use developments in the economic conditions.

A spokesman for Crosby Lend Lease said work on its Globe Road site was on hold until market conditions improved.

Andrew Carter, deputy leader of Leeds City Council and executive member for development, said: "The fact that a number of schemes have been put on hold is just a sign of the current economic situation.

"I'm as worried as everybody else about the economic downturn in the UK, I think we are in a for a bumpy ride, but Leeds is better placed than any other northern city – in my view."

Leeds Chamber of Commerce's policy director Ian Williams said the last decade had seen 59,000 jobs created and the estimated value of the city's economy was set to grow from £13bn to £17bn by 2016.

He added: "Leeds is actually in a good position. And even with the recent talk of recession we still have businesses speaking with us on a daily basis, outlining that they are performing well in the current economic climate."

The dwindling property market in Leeds has already seen 1,974 apartments ditched by developers, such as Spiracle on the site of Leeds International Pool, Kissing Towers at Criterion Place and Green Bank.

Work on Lumiere dramatically halted last month because of lack of funding and despite developer KW Linfoot's claims that building could re-start early next year, the scheme remains on hold.

And there could be more homes to bite the dust yet.

Montpellier Estates has outline planning permission for City One, a mixed-use development with 450 homes.

A spokesperson said: "With regards to the residential element of the scheme, this is still under review and has yet to be decided."

City living expert Rachael Unsworth, from the University of Leeds School of Geography, said the building downturn could prove a blessing for the city's future.
"We were heading for a major oversupply of a particular kind of accommodation. We were going down the wrong road and we can reconsider."

Around 850 city-centre flats are expected to be completed this year and there are long-term projects like the 282-unit Isis Waterside Regeneration development at Granary Wharf and 410-unit Saxton by Urban Splash, due to be completed at the end of 2010.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Our letter to the Yorkshire Evening Post

'Don't leave us at mercy of market'
16 August 2008

In July the YEP reported on the demise of the Leeds Lumiere development.
What you did not point out is that "the market" that has shelved this development is the same market that is proposed to "regenerate" Leeds and provide it with affordable homes.

Vast areas of mainly council housing are being flattened to provide to provide land upon which private developers can build housing for sale, a small proportion of which will be called "affordable".

With council housing lists at bursting point, inflation continuing to rise, unemployment increasing and the cost of borrowing remaining high what chance do first-time buyers or those people being removed from areas such as Gipton and Seacroft have of finding a decent, affordable place to live?

Leeds City Council's policy of relying on the private sector to provide homes must be a risky strategy. The leader of the council, Coun Richard Brett, recently remarked that "there is a real question mark about whether Bellway can build and sell houses in Seacroft and Gipton when we are in a credit crunch."

Bellway Homes are the "preferred" partner with Leeds City Council in the EASEL regeneration project across east and south-east Leeds.

This shows the danger of expecting the private sector to deliver public services such as affordable housing: they will only do it if they can make a certain profit.

So here's an idea: if private builders like Bellway are reluctant to build houses in case they can't sell them, why doesn't the council take them over to provide for rented accommodation? Building jobs will be saved and truly affordable housing will have been achieved.

Housing is too vital to be left to the market and we urge the council to rethink the current policy. Oh and by the way – if there are so many empty riverside flats unoccupied then why not take them over as well?

John Davies, chairman, Hands Off Our Homes

Monday, 11 August 2008

Using the Freedom of Information Act

Many tenants and residents are increasingly using the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act to gather vital evidence about what local authorities and other public bodies are up to.

Here is a great new website that helps you to find out 'inside information' about what the UK government is doing. You choose the public authority that you would like information from, then write a brief note describing what you want to know. The website then sends your request to the public authority. Any response they make is automatically published on the website for you and anyone else to find and read.

Go to:

Problems with Local Government Ombudsmen

One possible route to stopping local authorities from demolishing or privatising our homes is to complain to the Local Government Ombudsman. However, there is growing evidence that these organisations are not on the side of ordinary people, but are instead acting on behalf of local authorities.

Check out the following websites for more information about people having a rough time with Local Government Ombudsmen:

Local Government Ombudsmen Discussion Forum:

Public Service Ombudsman Watchers:

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Housing crisis 'hits cash for roads and schools'

Developers want to build only individual homes
Published Date: 07 August 2008
By Tom Smithard Political Correspondent

ROADS, playgrounds and schools could fall victim to the housing crisis as developers in Yorkshire become increasingly powerful, an influential report warns.
Money currently extracted from developers to pay for new infrastructure could soon dry up with councils desperate to fulfil the Government demands that more than 22,000 new homes are built the region each year.

Local authorities had planned on forcing developers to build high-density apartment complexes within town centres in order to meet the targets. But the bottom has now fallen out of that market and developers are unwilling – or unable – to build high-rise flats.

Instead, they are expected to tell local authorities that they are only prepared to build individual houses on desirable, greenfield land – and that they are no longer prepared to stump up for new infrastructure, known as Section 106 funding, as they look to maximize profits.

That could lead to Yorkshire seeing more houses built on greenbelt, without any additional rise in roads and schools, with councils too scared of missing Government targets to refuse developers' demands.

The fears emerged in a comprehensive report into the current housing crisis, put together by officials at the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Assembly.

It reveals that:

Work started on 21 per cent fewer homes in the first quarter of 2008 than the last quarter in 2007, and starts were 24 per cent down on a year earlier. Completions fell by 12 and 18 per cent respectively.

The Government's housing market renewal areas, flagship schemes to regenerate deprived parts of South Yorkshire and Hull, are in danger of relapsing due to the credit crunch and slowing down of the market.

Housing associations in Yorkshire have at least 300 homes that they haven't been able to sell for at least three months.

The average house price in Yorkshire is now £163,500 – a 4.51 per cent increase on last year – and a 44.16 per cent increase on four years ago.

For the first time since 1996, more new homes are being completed by builders than are being started.

Developers, desperate to get new flats off their books are offering discounts of at least 20 per cent to housing associations. But they are unsuitable for family housing.

Estate agents are in the process of closing offices in Yorkshire or laying off significant numbers of staff; small building firms are in danger of collapsing, and manufacturers of building materials are suspending production in the region.

The report states that the amount of money developers can get from apartment complexes has fallen from 37 per cent of the build costs in 2003 to nine per cent last year, and that there is no appetite to build more.

Last night a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government, which sets housebuilding targets, said: "There is an overwhelming case for building more housing and we must remain as ambitious as possible but there is no question of greenfield land becoming up for grabs.

"Councils can insist that new homes are in suitable locations thanks to our tough brownfield first policy. We have also just announced a £6.4m incentive grant for councils in Yorkshire and Humberside who ensure that there is a 10-year supply of suitable brownfield sites for development."