Posted by: Alex Wellman16/11/2011
Leeds Council has taken a huge step in the right direction.
By setting up a conference with the city’s private landlords, they are hoping to address the housing crisis that Leeds finds itself in.
And it seems the answer may partially be in restoration and not simply new builds.
According to the council, there are 28,000 people on the housing waiting list and 15,883 properties in Leeds.
It does not take a degree in rocket science to work out that if these properties were restored and repaired, a large number of people could get off the maddening waiting list.
Where normally there is a wedge driven private landlords and local authorities, Leeds has decided to take a grown-up attitude and invite the private sector in for talks, and it is easy to see why.
If there is a push to repair the empty buildings, it will create work, the redeveloped house will become a home and private landlords (many of who receive totally unwarranted negative press thanks to an unscrupulous minority) create a new revenue stream. Everyone’s a winner.
Within the conference, there will also be a discussion around the delivery of good standard accommodation.
Again it is a topic that private landlords are often battered with until they are black and blue. There is the perception that private landlords are happy to let people stay in tiny flats with damp and peeling walls.
I have lived in private-rented flats, social housing and of course the family home and the only place where I have not had complaints is with mum and dad - aside from a tidy-obsessed mother who appeared to take pleasure in hiding Playstation games.
And within these different tenures I have had totally different reactions to complaints and calls for repairs
True, one or two private landlords have acted with contempt and shrugged their shoulders until I became a pain in the backside, but others acted straight away and got repairs done to a standard above what I expected.
When in social housing, my partner and I were ‘lucky’ enough to have Connaught as a contractor and I’m sure I could share a few horror stories with tenants and landlords over a Christmas pint of Guinness if desired.
Equally, just a few months ago we had the best service from a major contractor that we ever have done when a water leak occurred in the bathroom.
So it is good that Leeds seems to be willing to get around stereotypes and opening itself up to sensible dialogue with a sector which could provide a great deal of help at this moment in time.
We do not know what will come out of the conference but what it does signify is that the council and private landlords are both aware of a problem and are looking at different ways of fixing it. Now to get the rest of the country thinking the same.
From Can we fix it?
Alex Wellman takes a look at what’s going on in the social housing contracting sector