Students have always been part of the mix in Headingley but from the 1990s their numbers boomed.
Family homes were turned into lucrative houses in multiple occupation (HMO) and, by 2011, the Census revealed that students made up two thirds of the population.
Pressure groups have long campaigned against the studentification of the area and, although the council was eventually able to use planning rules to prevent more properties being turned into HMOs, there were already well more than 5,000.
While many long-term residents were resigned to being swamped by party-loving undergraduates, there are now clear signs that the social make-up of Headingley is changing. Students are on the move to nearby Hyde Park and to purpose-built accommodation closer to the University of Leeds and to Leeds Beckett University.
Estate agent Mark Manning, Sales Director of Manning Stainton, says: “In days gone by our buyers in Headingley were mainly landlords looking for their next investment. Now 80 per cent of all homes in this area are bought by young couples and families. This trend was predicted but now we are finally seeing it happen and a new generation of owner occupiers is helping to transform Headingley into the thriving suburb it once was.”
Manning Stainton figures show that property prices are also on an upward curve with an 11 per cent increase in values over the last year alone. The area has all the right ingredients for a hotspot: tree-lined streets, characterful homes and good schools.
“At a recent meeting with fellow members of the Leeds Civic Trust, I heard Headingley referred to as the ‘Notting Hill of the North’ and I can see why. There is a more cosmopolitan feel with trendy bars opening up,” says Mark, who adds that the area still offers good value despite the rise in values.
Prices start from £120,000 for a two-bedroom flat or small terraced house and from £200,000 for a three-bedroom semi. One of the cheapest homes on sale at the moment is a one-bedroom flat at Grange Court for £87,995. The most expensive property is a six-bedroom detached home with a three-bedroom garden flat. It is on Shaw Lane with a price of £665,000.
Buyers are taking advantage of landlords selling up as student demand falls. However, not all rental property will be off-loaded.
“Student property is getting harder to let, especially the big seven and eight-bedroom properties,” says Mark Manning. “Some landlords are selling and others are looking at upgrading their properties to attract young professionals, which is also good because these are the people who are likely to stay in the area and buy later.”
Dr Richard Tyler, Secretary of Headingley Neighbourhood Forum, agrees that the housing market in the area is changing after over 20 years of being distorted by too many students. “At the beginning of the 1990s they were in a minority but numbers increased and the impact has been traumatic. Now we are seeing a decline in demand for student accommodation, which is a good thing because the community is unbalanced, constantly changing and unsustainable.
“Residents have had to endure filthy streets and what feels like an endless series of 21st birthday parties. In summer the place is deserted. Now, Headingley is changing as students move out, and while it won’t go back to what it was, we hope that over the long term we will have a majority of residents rather than students.”
Councillor Sue Bentley, who represents the area, agrees: “There has been a reduction in the number of houses in multiple occupation by students and the area is returning to a more balanced community.”
While the flow of students out of Headingley is steady, Mark Manning believes change might come faster if the public transport links between the suburb and the city centre are improved. “A tram would be the dream. It would bring in more of the right kind of buyer and bring this great suburb of Leeds back to its peak again.”