Words: Richard Beecham
Hundreds of households in Leeds are having to “bid” against each other in order to live in the city’s dwindling stocks of council housing, new data has revealed.
New figures published by Leeds City Council have led to one of its senior members to call for the abolition of the ‘Right to Buy’ council house purchase scheme.
Leeds City Council currently has a system where available council houses are advertised on the Leeds Homes website, applicants are then encouraged to “bid” for homes they would like to live in.
According to figures for January to March this year, one house in Ullswater Crescent, Halton Moor, had 934 expressions of interest since February 3. This was followed closely followed by a property at Maryfield Avenue, Cross Gates (880 bids) and another at St Catherine’s Drive, Bramley (771 bids).
The numbers, published via the Datamill North website, show 52 houses received more than 500 bids since the turn of the year, while 486 houses had more than 100.
The same figures for January to March 2020 showed the highest number of bids on one property was 727, while only 37 had more than 500 bids.
Meanwhile, further data published by Leeds City Council shows the number of council houses in the city has reduced by nearly 5,000 in the past 15 years – from 59,426 in 2006/07, to 54,433 in 2020/21.
The figures follow warnings made to Leeds city councillors last December that 23,000 people were sat on the council’s housing waiting list.
A council meeting the following month was told the authority planned to build 300 new council homes a year in a bid to replenish stock, but Labour councillor David Jenkins (Killingbeck and Seacroft) had said the authority should cancel its ‘Right to Buy’ sales.
The ‘Right to Buy’ scheme, which was introduced by the Thatcher government in the 1980s, allows those living in council homes to purchase them from the local authority at a knockdown price.
Responding to the latest figures this week, Coun Jenkins said:
“We are losing 300 houses a year, after building our own 300 houses, to Right to Buy. Like in Wales, Right to Buy should be abolished.
“Particularly because the council houses that are built are built using taxpayers’ money. It takes away the possibility of any of these people getting a property for more than two-to-three years.
“There are so many people in desperate need, living in overcrowded situations, and it is really really hard. We are doing what we can – the Government refused to allow us to build council houses until 2018.
“(Abolishing right to buy) would be a Government decision and would have to be done nationally. I would say the Government is not going to do it because they want to encourage home ownership.
“That is very unfair on people who are never going to be able to afford their own homes and wil be reliant on housing associations and the private sector.”
He added that, of 778 enquiries he has had from constituents since the beginning of January – around one fifth were housing-related.
Leeds City Council has been contacted for a comment.