Students accused of turning neighbourhood into a 'slum'

November 30, 2001

Houses in one of the most popular areas of Leeds are being reduced to 19th-century slums, according to heritage watchdogs, writes Alison Utley.

Leeds Civic Trust claims that student overcrowding in Headingley is pushing out families. It says legislation is needed to stop the area becoming a student ghetto.

"Some students are sharing one poky living room between ten with very poor facilities," said trust director Kevin Grady, who warned that Leeds communities were being destroyed.

"It's quite clear when you look around Headingley that it's going downhill fast," he said. "We are creating the situation where we almost have slum conditions, and families are moving from Headingley in droves."

Dr Grady said that the number of houses in multiple occupation was increasing and that this was affecting local amenities such as shops and libraries. He called for legislation to limit the number of people able to live in one house.

Harold Best, Labour MP for Leeds North West, echoed Dr Grady's concerns. He also pointed out that a private member's bill due to be heard in Parliament later this month aimed to give local authorities more power to tackle "landlordism". The bill could introduce mandatory standards for houses with more than four lockable rooms.

Mr Best said that Headingley, because of its huge student population, was unlike any other part of Leeds, and the universities were exacerbating the situation. "They are devastating the community that has been their host for generation after generation."

Both universities in Leeds said they were working hard with the local community to solve any accommodation difficulties.

Sarah Lund, student welfare officer at Leeds University, said too much blame was being attached to students rather than landlords for poor housing.

"Headingley has been neglected by the local council and is overrun with dodgy landlords. But people still persist with the idea that students are bringing the area down," she said.

"They never seem to acknowledge all the positive aspects to students' involvement in the community - and all the money they bring in. It's not students' fault they have to live in a place where rents are £40 a week rather than £100."

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