In this case study, we look at Leeds City Council’s plans to meet the need for affordable housing, including driving regeneration through building council houses, reviving derelict sites, and improving standards throughout the project.
- 51,952 new homes by 2033
- 3247 new homes per annum
- 1203 affordable houses
- 60% to be social rented
- 40% to be in the intermediate quartile
Over the past decade, less than half of the required amount of affordable housing has been built, leading to a housing crisis across the UK.
In an affordability study carried out in Leeds, only 1% of new build properties were sold at a price which can be afforded by households with a lower quartile income.
This has seen a rise in the amount of poor quality private rented households, now accounting for 20% of the stock in Leeds.
Leeds currently has a waiting list of 25,000 people waiting for council housing, with each house that becomes available having over 200 bids.
- 619 homes handed over to tenants
- 42 homes with planning approval
- 273 homes at planning submission stage
- 141 homes at pre-planning stage
- 226 homes in procurement
- 84 homes at design/feasibility stage
This totals 825 new homes that are in the pipeline for Leeds City Council over the next 3 years.
Regeneration through council housing
In an area known as Little London, there have been concerted efforts to pump new life into the community and help rid it of its accolade from the mid-2000s of having the most ASBO’s served in a single day.
There were large issues surrounding drugs and crime, however, through the scheme over 1200 homes were refurbished and a further 388 properties were built.
These houses were filled by working people on low income who have chosen to live there due to the quality of the housing now available in the area.
This has improved the area as a whole, from schools to local businesses. Rather than gentrifying the area and outpricing the local community, the emphasis was on providing quality housing to low-income professionals who could then have a larger impact without resentment from those already living there.
Reviving derelict building sites
Leeds City Council purchased large eyesores such as rundown pubs and turned them into affordable housing.
One such case was the Squinting Cat Public House, which was turned from a crumbling pub into 18 new homes.
This had an uplifting effect on the area as a whole and has helped to revive local business and create a nicer environment.
Meeting specific needs
More than hitting targets and numbers, there has also been a focus on listening to local organisations to understand what the more niche requirements are.
This has included providing 1000 new care home spaces to cater for the ageing population.
There are now 4 new extra care schemes allowing care homes to use council land to provide for those needing care.
There are a further 2 schemes totalling 120 beds in procurement.
Beyond that, many of the new homes being provided are being built to meet the needs of those with disabilities, offsetting potential further costs for low-income families.
Setting High Standards
Leeds City Council has maintained a high standard across all the council housing it has provided, in part due to the conversation around the state of council housing in the wake of Grenfell.
Council housing also suffers from an image problem, which requires a larger cultural shift to rejuvenate the perceptions surrounding it.
Rather than “throwing street parties” the overriding aim of Leeds City Council has been to build great quality houses every single time.
There are 5 key areas where Leeds City Council has implemented a higher standard of housing.
All homes are built to the Government’s nationally described space standard (NDSS).
The NDSS sets out the minimum required space to qualify as an acceptable council house.
There has been early engagement with contractors paired with an in-house design team to maximise the efficiency of the project.
Helping to create better looking and more dynamic housing has been a key focus for upping the standards of council housing.
Following the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s paper on raising accessibility standards, all new homes in Leeds are built to M42 and M43 standard.
This is centred around accessible and adaptable dwellings, as well as wheelchair user dwellings.
All new homes are being built with high energy efficiency standards.
Not only is this better for the environment, but it will help prevent high energy bills for tenants.
The overall quality of the buildings is held to a higher standard.
This ensures lower maintenance costs once tenants move in, as well as providing nicer living conditions.
Financing the Programme
Funding the scheme has been key to the overall success of the project.
Over the past 4 years, the bulk of funding for the project has come from reserve capital transfers, however, going forward over the next 5 years the majority of funding will come from planned borrowing.
One of the bigger challenges is not necessarily the funding, but the availability of land. The council is struggling to find the land to purchase to continue building at the rate they have been.
There is also the desire to implement the high standards that have been set and embed these into the future of all new council house buildings, which requires a lot of effort and cross-agency organisation.
As mentioned, shifting perceptions of council housing is also difficult. Leeds City Council has attempted to tackle the associations of council housing with rundown areas by not just focussing on the numbers and targets of the building as much as possible, but keeping standards high.
By maintaining higher standards across all their projects, the standard of living for all those in the area is improved.
Leeds City Council is working on acquiring more land to continue the good work that has been undertaken in the previous 5 years.
The other big challenge is to ensure that the areas in which new houses are being built are not too far out from the city centre, where people are being priced out of the market.
Going forward with new developments, there are policies being incorporated in the planning to improve social interaction and community projects.
 Evans, Neil. Director of Resources, Leeds City Council. 2021. The UK House Building and Supply Conference: Building Council Houses for the Future