The News of ‘No News’

Hanging in the balance

It has been a long time since I’ve posted an update and this is because, while nothing has really happened, a whole lot has happened too.

The short of it is that Leeds City Council (LCC) has not yet met to discuss the planning application, and won’t until at least the end of May, possibly later. While this (hopefully) means that LCC are taking time to consider all implications for community, it also means our fate continues to hang in the balance.

The long of it is that life in Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive stands as a microcosm of wider Britain: anxiously stagnating in the midst of social and political crisis as decisions are taken out of our hands, while health issues and austerity continue to gnaw away at our safety nets.

In our two streets alone, health conditions have immobilised some of our best campaigners; imminent joblessness and under-employment are sapping the energies of our families and neighbours; and all of this while we pile high cardboard boxes out of fear of a sudden eviction. Brexit discussions rumble on, simultaneously boring the nation (and our neighbours) and providing a dangerous distraction from ever-widening cracks in our social system. Take housing…

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Housing policy reform and Section 21

Housing policy developments in the last few months have been mixed and hold little reassurance for us in the Oulton Drive estate. You may have read recently about the government putting an end to Section 21 “no fault” evictions, which previously meant that landlords were able to issue an 8-week eviction notice to tenants without giving a reason. Now landlords will have to bring a “concrete evidenced reason already specified in law” in order to issue notice, which is certainly a positive move – especially to prevent “revenge evictions”, where tenants are turfed-out after making a complaint about the condition of the property. However, there is nothing in this law to prevent landlords unreasonably increasing rent to a level that is unaffordable for the tenant and requires them to leave. Low income renters (like us) are particularly vulnerable to this, as the balance between monthly income and expenditure balances on a knife edge. Landlords will also still be able to evict if they want to sell the property (or move back in themselves). More radical tenant protection measures are desperately needed.

Beyond that, of course, building more social housing needs to be a priority – yet this is another area where the government is desperately failing. As a recent study has shown, government investment remains focused overwhelmingly on private housing, ‘with only 21% of the total of more than £70bn up to 2022/23 going towards affordable housing’.

An article in the Yorkshire Evening Post last year highlighted that demand for social housing in the region is massively outstripping supply with nearly 800 people bidding for one house in March 2018. With LCC only committing to build 358 new social houses by the end of 2021 (none of which will be in the Rothwell/Woodlesford/Oulton area), it is clear that supply will continue to fall woefully behind need. Where do all of these lack of developments leave us?

Anxiety and Anger

According to recent coverage, the ongoing Brexit saga is making us a nation of angry and pessimistic citizens, frustrated at the sense of a lack of control at our own fate, no matter what side of the spectrum we fall. This is compounding the sense of anxiety and frustration we are feeling day-to-day about potential homelessness from our eviction threat, as well as our everyday struggles with health, jobs, and education.

This is the news of no news. And if you find it boring and a little bit depressing – try living it. (Sadly, I’m sure many of you do…).

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