Leeds Civic Hall

Leeds City Council looking to purchase 40 private flats in city to improve ‘extremely poor housing’

Leeds City Council’s Executive Board is to decide whether to purchase 40 privately owned flats in the city at a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday 10 February).

A public report by the council outlines a proposal to purchase the long-leasehold interest in a portfolio of at least 40 flats at Kingsdale Court in the Seacroft area of Leeds as part of a co-ordinated response across the council and its partner services.

This is to resolve acute neighbourhood management issues and extremely poor housing conditions that have blighted the surrounding area for at least the last decade.

Kingsdale Court comprises 88 flats across eight blocks, all of which are currently in private ownership and are located across six of the eight blocks on site.

The report states: ‘The site has been a focus for significant and sustained crime and antisocial behaviour, resulting in major impacts on amenity and safety for residents in and around the area, deteriorating housing and environmental conditions’.

There is also a high rate of void properties, with around half of the flats across the full site lying empty and Leeds City Council and their partners have undertaken statutory enforcement, including temporary closures of two of the apartment blocks, with further longer-term interventions currently being considered.

The 40 flats had been held in administration since late 2019 following the failure of the previous holding company and the portfolio has recently been purchased by a property developer, with a view to long-term investment and further acquisitions in the site to enable comprehensive refurbishment.

Informal negotiations have taken place in relation to the flats and it is understood that the vendor has recently acquired a small number of additional flats that could be added to the council portfolio if the plan gets the go ahead.

A problem with the site at the present time is that there are currently a large number of interests, including freehold, head leases, sub-leases, tenancies and management companies, which the report says ‘have created a complex set of property relationships, fragmented responsibilities and obligations, which in part have contributed to its social and environmental problems’.

The council believes that a single third-party acquisition of these ‘cannot be guaranteed and would leave significant concern about the potential for resolution of the ongoing challenges of the nature experienced to date’.

Council officers have engaged with the developer and there is a willingness to consider disposal to the council where this may be a better route to achieving more certainty of a sustainable and positive outcome at Kingsdale Court.

Leeds City Council believe that purchasing the portfolio would place the council in a position of significant ownership and leverage on the site, which would help to influence change.

If a detailed scheme is shaped and approved, the site could lend itself to the development of new council housing in the area to meet local need.

The report states: ‘If an acquisition of the initial portfolio is made, there would be a need for the flats to be properly managed by the council, preventing further deterioration of the site and to enable the first steps in a longer-term plan for improvements to living conditions.’

The council believes that this would reduce the ‘negative impact on the surrounding community, in terms of crime, anti-social behaviour and environmental blight’ and ‘would allow the challenge of extremely poor-quality private sector housing to be tackled’.

It would also allow fit-for-purpose affordable housing to be provided at a later date as part of the council’s commitment to sustainable change and regeneration in one of its priority neighbourhoods in the city.

There are very complex property and legal interests across the site, which continue to be examined as part of a due diligence process.

If approved by the council’s Executive Board, council offers will be granted delegated powers to secure acquisition of the portfolio of at least 40 flats.

As well as this, principal authority is being requested to acquire any and all further interests across the site, with the aim of addressing social and environmental conditions and facilitating a sustainable development solution.

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