Every Roddy’s Gotta Learn Sometime

The latest two articles by the YEP’s Rod McPhee make for an interesting double piece.

McPhee, Tiberius reminds us, has in the last few months been seen – attacking those who’ve questioned the state of Leeds’ city centre housing, and eulogising over the demise of those who helped create them. It now appears, however, that McPhee may be having a change of heart.

In the first piece, McPhee tells us he is “toying with the notion of actually sampling the city living lifestyle”.

However, as he view prospective flats  he does not appear to be very impressed with what he sees.  Using phrases such as “more than a little prison-esque” and “sense of being in a young offenders’ institution”, he paints a picture of cramped, soul-less apartments with “odd low ceilings” and  “irregularly narrow living rooms2, the view from which may be “overlooking the car park. Or someone else’s flat” or   if you’re “lucky enough to live in a north-facing flat where you’ll barely be troubled by light at any time of year.”

With regard to value for money, he does point out he is “talking about the smaller, usually one-bed pads which are anywhere between £450-£750 a month. But you can opt for a bigger version at anything between £800-£1,100 a month” but, goes on to mention that for him (and, Tiberius suspects, most in Leeds): “shelling out anything close to a grand on an apartment is a non-starter”. This suggests that it’s only the moderately affordable flats which are undesirable – the unaffordable ones may be nicer.

Now, Tiberius does not wish to be misunderstood – he agrees with McPhee’s analysis that city-centre apartments are undesirable for anyone except those who have, as Papa Leodis would put it “more money than sense” (and to McPhee’s list of complaint Tiberius would also add  “community-less” and “lacking in local amenities”). What baffles Tiberius is why it has taken McPhee so long to realise this?

In the second piece, McPhee highlights the vanishing distinction between these city-centre apartments and the high-rise tower blocks. He talks of  “the Shameless crowd who appear to be taking advantage of falling rents in the heart of Leeds” and ends with an ominous warning that “if city living gets a reputation for offering anything less than consistently high-class high rises it will herald its doom” (he does, however, “stop short of talking about slums of the future” – a phrase he attacked Max Hutchinson for employing).

Taken together the two phenomena that McPhee highlights (lack of value for money in city centre, falling prices resulting in ‘undesirables’ moving in) represent a vicous circle which Tiberius believes Leeds will struggle to get itself out of in the forseeable future: the more ‘undesirables’ that move in to these apartments the less desirable will be seen to be, rents will therefore decrease resulting in more ‘undiserables’ moving in,  and so on.

And how did we get into this trap, Weary Surfer? Because when credit was cheap Leeds invested poorly in a glut of these pokey, cramped, apartments which were over-inflated in price and representative of no long-term demand – cheerled all the while by a corporate media looking to cash in and a Council that should have known better – and, now the credit has dried, up we are stuck with them.

Tiberius has already noted that some in Leeds warned against this future, he reiterates that we should listen to their analysis of why this happened, and the consider the solutions they suggest.


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