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Architects spurn calls for more Leeds family homes

Calls for more family homes in Leeds city centre have received a lukewarm reception from architects.

According to researchers at Leeds University, developers in the West Yorkshire metropolis are building too many small apartments aimed at young professionals and not enough 'day-to-day' facilities to support sustainable growth.

The current market, it was also claimed, was increasingly geared towards the young. Of the 500 occupants of city-centre flats questioned during the survey, only two per cent were over 60.

However, the report has not been welcomed warmly by those working in the city. Gregg Mitchell, a director at Leeds- and London-based giants Carey Jones, said: '[While] no one will argue with the sentiment, unless construction costs drop, land-price expectations drop or house prices rocket - and buyers can afford them - the mix of apartments will not be achieved quickly.

'Family accommodation is just not generating the return to make it viable.'

He added: 'For the floor area required to build a three-bed flat, you can generate more return from two one-bed flats and the current demand is there to match it.

'So much so, that studio apartments are now being looked at more and more to generate the increased returns required in the same floor to meet the construction costs.'

Andrew Stoddart, managing director of Above & Beyond Architecture in nearby Huddersfield, also has reservations about the findings. He said: 'Unless the social infrastructure - together with parallel investment in upgrading the local area - is in place, building for families is unlikely to create a sustainable income stream for the developer or a good investment prospect for the owner.'

The study, commissioned by locally based developer KW Linfoot, stated that the only way to maintain and encourage inner-city living was to reassess the mix of units to widen the market.

It said: 'Without such a change in thinking, there is likely to be a serious over-supply of small apartments, a lack of options for older, larger households and a high turnover of residents as they are faced with little option but to move on from the city centre as their needs mature.'

The report concluded: 'Reducing the total number of units in a scheme may seem to fly in the face of financial common sense, but the calculations need to be made within a context of a wider understanding of the nature of the market.'

by Richard Waite

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