The first sod’s being cut on Friday of a new Council housing development in Beeston – 55 new houses, the Council says, for social rent and shared ownership that are going to be built on a brownfield site by Bramall Construction at a cost of £5.7m.
Good news that there’s money going in to one of Leeds’ most deprived areas, but…
…brownfield site? Well, it IS a brownfield site at the moment, but that’s only because the houses that were on the land have been knocked down. Up until quite recently there were 132 houses there, most of them back-to-backs, on streets called Beverley View, Beverley Mount, Beverley Avenue, Beverley Terrace and Back Beverley Terrace.
Here they are, about to come down (pic copyright James Bell, check out his Leeds photos here)
And that figure of £5.7m?
Well, yes. The construction is going to cost £5.7m, but there’s no mention in the Council’s press release of any other costs associated with the development.
So here they are , courtesy of Leeds Council’s Capital Programme 2010:
Table taken from here.
Maybe I’m getting this wrong, but as far as I can work it out, before the first sod gets cut on Friday the scheme has already cost £11,656,700 – the amount the Council has paid for buying the houses, demolishing them and making compensation payments.
Add in the construction costs of £5.7m and you get a grand total of £17,356,700. For 55 houses.
That’s £315,000 per house.
Surely that can’t be right? Have I done the sums wrong?
Just down the road from where the Beverleys used to be (on Lady Pit Lane) is the Beeston home of Canopy, a self-help, community housing project that renovates derelict houses to create decent homes for people that are homeless.
Now Canopy manages to get derelict Council properties back into use for around £25,000 each (repeat £25,000), providing training and work for the local community on the way*.
There are currently around 16,000 empty properties in Leeds, around half of which have been empty for over six months. There are currently at least 27,000 households on the Council’s affordable housing waiting list.
How many empty homes could the Council – or community groups like Canopy – have brought back into use for 17 million quid?
If there’s a problem, knock it down
The Council admitted recently that there’s a “desperate need” for affordable housing in the city. With almost no cash available for new-builds, isn’t this the time for them to finally get to grips with the empty housing problem? They’ve been promising to do it for decades. They’ve written strategy documents about it, appointed special teams of people to work on it, but somehow it’s always turned out to be too difficult.
Why is that? And why is it that today’s crop of Leeds councillors – just like the aldermen who ripped Woodhouse and Hunslet apart in the name of progress when I was a teenager – still seem to be in thrall to the bulldozer?
(*Credit to the Council where it’s due. Canopy says it wouldn’t have got off the ground and wouldn’t be able to continue its work without support and collaboration from its “most important partner”, Leeds Council. Which sort of makes the financing of the Beverleys housing project even odder)