News that a £25m free school in Leeds has been given final approval by Ministers has been widely welcomed and is likely to continue driving regeneration to the south of the city centre. It could also have an interesting effect on the local property market.
One of the main criticisms of City Living in Leeds over the past 20 years or so been the lack of services and provisions for families. The Ruth Gorse Academy, which will open this September, initially on the Morley Academy site, will move into a purpose built home on Black Bull Street in 2016 and will provide further impetus to the South Bank. With 252 new places for year seven children becoming available from 2016 the new free school will no doubt provide food for thought for many families currently living close by, as well as those considering a move to the city centre.
Obviously the creation of the new school will not automatically lead to families flocking into the heart of the city, but it is a start. Leeds city centre has enjoyed a huge amount of investment recently across its retail, leisure and office sectors so an investment on this level in public services is very encouraging. But what effect will the school have on property?
Today there are approximately 11,000 apartments in Leeds city centre which are home to around 14,000 residents, and we estimate that only about 100 of these homes are currently sitting empty which proves just how popular city living is.
The majority of these apartments are still rental properties and from our recent tenant survey, we know that approximately half of people living in the city are aged between 26 and 35 and around 40% between 19 and 25. Approximately 60% of city apartments are occupied by two people and of these 73% are couples and 23% are housemates sharing a home. A third of the people surveyed live on their own – so no families!
However, there is a small proportion of pioneering families that have moved into the city, people who are looking for a more European lifestyle, and the creation of The Ruth Gorse Academy will be good news for them.
But, in order for the city’s residential market to appeal to families a seismic change has to occur in the way in which property is developed. When we opened our doors back in 1997 there were only around 500 or so hardy souls living in the city – and now there are 14,000.
To replicate that sort of success and appeal to families who generally want to buy not rent, the right type of homes in the right locations with the right services need to become available. Apartment living isn’t for everyone, but it wouldn’t take too much to adapt what’s currently on offer in order to deliver more family friendly homes, with a greater emphasis on layout and more outside provision.
The problem is there is already a shortage of apartments in the city core – we estimate that the city could comfortably accommodate another 1,000 apartments simply to meet tenant demand – but there are only around 300 in the pipeline over the next two years. If we can’t even meet this demand how are we going to break the mould and start thinking about creating family-friendly homes in the heart of our vibrant city?
Leeds is making headlines for all the right reasons, attracting major investment and building a reputation as a city of real meaning and the opening of the new school will help further enhance this – hopefully the property market will keep pace and open its eyes to the potential opportunities that building family homes could offer.