A woman says she is ‘devastated’ to be facing homelessness just weeks before Christmas as her estate is earmarked for demolition.
Linda Elsworth, 71, is one of a number of tenants on the Sugar Hill estate in Oulton, Leeds, issued with eviction notices that require them to be out of their homes by Wednesday.
Ms Elsworth said she thought the property was going to be her ‘forever home’ and she has nowhere to go if she is evicted this week.
The pensioner, originally from Hornsea, East Yorkshire, said: ‘I paid for this out of my own pocket and made the place my home and my community. I was comfortable in thinking this would be my forever home and now the rug’s been pulled from under us and it’s not.’
Landlord Pemberstone has been planning to redevelop the estate since 2019. It has now served eviction notices on eight most ‘structurally unsound’ houses on the estate.
Linda Elsworth, 71, outside her much-loved home in Oulton, Leeds, which is earmarked for demolition
Ms Elsworth, a retired administrator, moved to the Sugar Hill estate six-and-a-half years ago after her marriage broke down.
Her best friend Hazel already lived on the estate and suggested she move there too as it was affordable and it would mean she wouldn’t be alone. Ms Elsworth took her friend’s advice and gathered up some bare essentials to make a home in Oulton.
She said: ‘It’s a little bit disheartening because I spent most of my savings to make this my home and now it’s all going to be taken away from me.
‘It’s devastating. It’s like losing your family. The thought of being homeless is scary – especially at this time of year.’
Ms Elsworth is one of several tenants who have been issued with eviction notices that require them to be out of their homes by Wednesday
Her house is decked out in her two favourite ‘obsessions’; owls and the colour purple, collections she’s built up to make the place her own.
Ms Elsworth said: ‘I’m having to pack up all my boxes, with all my memories. I’ve got to decide which bits to get rid of – because there won’t be room for them wherever I go.’
After several years of residents fighting Pemberstone’s application to bulldoze the old mining estate, Linda and some of her neighbours received notice in August that they would need to be out by December
Ms Elsworth said: ‘I only have about four or five days but there’s no way that’s going to happen because I’ve got nowhere to go.
‘I’m physically looking for places but there just isn’t anywhere – at least not anywhere that I could afford.
‘The reason we all live here is because they’re affordable properties for people such as myself on a state pension and housing benefits and people on lower income.
‘I don’t know what to do. When Wednesday comes around and I’m going to have to say, “I’m sorry I’m not moving because I’ve got nowhere to go.”
A residents’ campaign group, Save Our Homes LS26, urged the council to buy the estate and refurbish the houses, but chiefs concluded it would be too expensive
‘When I moved here I was a lot healthier and able to do it, but now my health has deteriorated and my mobility’s gone and I need walking aids.’
Ms Elsworth says she has been struggling to find a new place in Leeds’ competitive housing market. She is looking at ground-floor bungalows or flats with lifts because of her mobility problems and also needs specific kitchen and bathroom fittings, such as a walk-in shower.
She has already had to turn down two properties because she knew she wouldn’t be able to cope alone in them.
With the social housing waiting list as long as it is, Leeds City Council has promised to help tenants like Ms Elsworth financially so they do not become homeless, but it is still likely she won’t be able to stay in the same area.
Ms Elsworth said: ‘I know if I ask my friends and neighbours for assistance packing they’ll rally around and help – that’s the way they are.
‘That’s the one thing that makes this worse – we aren’t just friends and neighbours – we’re a community, an extended family. If we lose that it’ll be like having my family cut off.
‘I haven’t got anyone else nearby who I can rely on. I’ve got to rely on my family up here. I don’t know what I’d do without them – they helped me with everything during the pandemic.’
Leeds City Council originally denied Pemberstone planning permission to bulldoze the estate in 2019 – but the decision was overturned the next year by the government.
A residents’ campaign group, Save Our Homes LS26, urged the council to buy the estate and refurbish the houses, but chiefs concluded it would be too expensive.
Ms Elsworth’s home is decked out in her two favourite ‘obsessions’ – owls and the colour purple – collections she built up to make the place her own
A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: ‘The notices being served to residents of Sugar Hill Close and Wordsworth Drive in Oulton are from landlord Pemberstone, in accordance with national law.
‘In terms of council support for the residents, Leeds Housing Options has contacted them with advice and assistance, and a surgery also took place in the community last week, both during the day and in the evening.
‘At the surgery applications for council housing were completed and relevant priority awards under part 7 of the Housing Act made. Detailed advice and assistance was given on an individual basis.
‘The council has also backdated any priority awards made to January 15 2021 in line with the appeals panel decision which will further support those tenants losing their homes and not yet engaged with Leeds Housing Options to hopefully reduce the time taken to be successful with an offer of a suitable council property.
‘The council understands the short timescales involved and whilst we are working with residents to assist with an offer of a council property there is strong support in place now to help residents secure private rented accommodation in the short term.
‘Whilst confirmation of who will purchase the site and develop it is awaited from Pemberstone, we are committed to working with the new site owner to ensure preference is given to any affordable homes provided for rent to tenants who will have been displaced.
Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s executive member for infrastructure and climate, said: ‘Our priority remains firmly on helping to minimise the stress and any hardship on the tenants concerned, providing all the help and guidance we can to ensure they have alternative accommodation and support.
‘We are also committed to working with the developer of the site to ensure those tenants displaced will have priority for the new affordable homes, which the aim is now to have up to 40 such properties available for rent.
‘Moving forward, the council remains committed to lobbying government to change the law and end “no fault” evictions.’
The Pemberton Group has been approached for comment.