Mark Grandfield, chief executive of Leeds Jewish Housing Association, shares his plans for a welcome new tranche of affordable community housing.
No matter what commercial sector you operate in, every organisation needs to be clear on what is most important to it to be able to shape its future accordingly. At Leeds Jewish Housing Association (LJHA), we’re a not-for-profit landlord, meaning no-one is taking dividends from our business and profits aren’t being used to start new ventures. Sure, being financially well run, efficient and sustainable is important, but that’s not our vision, positively impacting on our residents’ lives and thus contributing to our community is.
We are acutely aware, like most of the country, that there continues to be huge affordability issues within the housing market. Many within our community don’t want home ownership, preferring the rental option, but the reality is many more simply cannot afford it. For all the economic woes of 2020, the Office for National Statistics reported average UK house prices rises of 8.5%, the highest annual growth since 2014. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t feel like an affordable housing market to me.
LJHA can’t solve this, but we can strain every sinew to deliver affordable housing solutions in the Leeds 17 area. To reflect this aspiration, one of our vision statements is to ‘build and acquire more homes for the Jewish community’ – clear, credible and with obvious social value.
So how are we doing? Well, we’re currently halfway through a major project on Queenshill Avenue to build 85 new homes that will hopefully be ready for new residents early in 2022. These will consist of one block of 34 apartments for residents of any age and another block of 51 apartments that we classify as sheltered accommodation for residents over 55 years of age. All four of our sheltered housing blocks on Queenshill Avenue (and the MAZCC centre) will then be physically connected with corridor links to form a vibrant retirement village concept.
Our development activity isn’t paid for by monies gained from residents of our existing homes, it’s funded through a combination of a government grant and a traditional mortgage with the rental income from the new homes repaying that mortgage, so it’s both sustainable and fair.
But that’s not the end of our ambition, in August of last year we undertook in-depth resident satisfaction surveys. Feedback received included a feeling from many that we need to focus on providing more homes for families and that some of our older homes are no longer comparable to modern-day build quality standards.
Now, to buy prime building land in Leeds 17 would mean us charging eye-watering rents to our residents and as we’re committed to a low rent regime, buying land locally simply isn’t affordable to us at the minute, so we’ve reviewed our own land for opportunities.
In January of this year, we spoke directly to the residents living in some of our oldest homes on Queenshill Avenue and Drive, to see their views on us using this plot to develop more new homes, the idea really being supported with a preference for family homes and apartments. We now feel we could have another exciting opportunity to build more, better, warmer, safer homes for the Jewish community and want to open up the dialogue and consult again with real plans.
As you can see by our site plan, we aim to:
- Increase the number of homes available.
- Have a mix of smaller one and two-bedroom apartments together with larger family homes.
- Maximise the use of the land we have.
- Respect our environmental impact by building highly insulated homes and retaining many of the trees on the site.
- Have a mix of private garden space and open space.
- Provide off-street parking to ease congestion.
- Designing a scheme that complements its surrounding neighbourhood.
To discuss the project, contact Simon Phillips on 0113 320 7777 or submit your thoughts via Ljha.co.uk/news/ljha-queenshill-developmentphase2/