Lib Dems seek to increase council housing supply

20 Feb 2023

Leeds Liberal Democrats are proposing to buy homes on the open market in an attempt to inject fairness into the council's Housing Growth strategy. They argue that the Labour Group’s current approach to building new council homes is dogmatic and ignores the needs of people seeking a Council tenancy in many neighbourhoods.

Leeds Liberal Democrat Group Leader on Leeds City Council, Cllr Stewart Golton said:

“In some parts of the city there hasn’t been a council house built in over 30 years – my own ward included. With the amount of Council houses sold off, and the rise in private rents, the waiting list to get an affordable council tenancy gets longer every year. The Labour Group want to be congratulated for their ambition to build 300 new council houses a year, but if none ever get built in your neighbourhood where you work and your kids go to school, what have you got to be thankful for?”

Leeds Liberal Democrats point out that the Council’s dependence on deals with private developers to build new council houses, is leaving many areas out in the cold.

“The Council strikes deals with developers to build on vacant council land, or buys them off property companies when they build developments. However, if no one builds a new estate in your area, there’s no option to buy a house off them. In may parts of the city, the Council sold off the good building land it owned many years ago, so that’s not an option either. In my own patch, the only way the Council could identify land to build family houses on was to close a council run elderly care home, evict the residents, and knock it down!”

Each year, Leeds Liberal Democrats have proposed amendments at the Council’s annual budget meeting to persuade the Council to alter its rules on how it invests in new Council homes to try and ensure that every part of the city could share in the new council homes created. This year’s proposal to create a £7 million fund to buy homes from the open market is the latest attempt to get the Council to think differently about how it provides homes.

“In previous years we have proposed setting up a housing company, buying a whole estate where the community was threatened with eviction and demolition, and changing the rules on buying back ex-Council houses. Each time the Labour Group has voted our proposals down. Our latest proposal is our simplest. The vast majority of the Leeds population buy the property they wan to invest in from local estate agents, so why shouldn’t we if it enables us to provide a few more council tenancies in areas that need them?

The Council’s current policy is dogmatic, and doesn’t actually deliver what they intend – property deals with major developers have not provided the number of properties hoped, within the timeframe expected, nor within the original budgeted price for the properties. Its time to take a different approach, and this is the first step.”

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