Once regarded as squalid “hovels” in the heart of Bradford city centre, these flats in Goitside became known as “Death Row” among residents desperate to find better accommodation.
Now, after a reincarnation, the newly-refurbished “little palaces” have become sought-after among home hunters, who have been bidding against each other to get a foot over the threshold.
Yesterday saw social housing provider Incommunities hand over a larger-than-life golden key to Mohammed Abdul-Quddues, whose family has just moved into one of the new three-bedroom properties in Roundhill Place, in Goitside.
The 51-year-old grandad has spent months living with relatives since he was made redundant and had to move out of a rented house because of the recently-introduced bedroom-tax.
Now Mr Abdul-Quddues, his wife and two children are settling in happily and spoke of their relief.
“We’re glad to be here. I feel as though I’ve come home. I grew up just round the corner in West Grove Street. It’s got happy memories and there’s going to be lots more,” said Mr Abdul-Quddues.
The family had been on Incommunities’ choice-letting bidding scheme for almost three years, but because his other children kept moving out one by one his points fluctuated, never getting them a property – until now.
Next door to him lives Tanveer Hussain, 31, who has four children and has been trying to get a house of his own to rent for six years. His family had previously been living in a room at his parents’ house.
“This is a dream come true. The children’s school is close, I’ve got a driveway and a garden at the front and back. I feel incredibly lucky to be here,” he said.
The conversion of what used to be 36 hard-to-let bedsits and flats, just off Westgate, is the completion of just the first chapter, according to Incommunities chief executive Geraldine Howley.
At yesterday’s key-giving ceremony, she said: “There is more to come.” The two converted blocks in Roundhill Place and Chain Street were originally built in 1910, becoming the second-oldest purpose-built social housing scheme in the city.
As the homes deteriorated during the first decade of this century, they acquired the unwanted nickname among locals of Death Row.
Despite this, they remained inhabited until recent years, when they were shut down with a view to being transformed.
The 16 family-sized homes, now all occupied, are a far cry from the derelict eyesore they had been. Each one has been fitted out with a smart new kitchen and bathroom, high-efficiency gas central heating and contemporary decor.
New balcony railings and landscaping have added to the smart new look of the development.
The Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Khadim Hussain, was guest of honour at the ceremony and was given a guided tour of Mr Abdul-Quddues’s home.
He said: “I’m impressed. Bradford is in dire shortage of affordable housing so an initiative like this is to be complimented. The partnerships that have gone on to make it all possible are also commendable.”
Councillor Val Slater, Bradford Council’s executive member for housing, was also on the guided tour and said: “It’s great we were able to save these buildings. It’s part of the history of Bradford. They are a fabulous design.”
Ralph Hewitt, chairman of the Local Management West City Trust, has been closely following the site’s progress.
He said: “These homes have gone from one extreme to another. The transformation from the hovels they once were to the little palaces they are now is amazing.
“It’s going to bring pride back to the area.”
The city centre scheme has been supported by the Homes and Communities Agency and a £100,000 grant from Bradford Council. Regional contractor Bullock carried out the work.
It is the latest phase to open in the Goitside conservation area. In 2005 Incommunities refurbished two other blocks of flats near The Harp of Erin pub.
Ms Howley said the Roundhill Place and Chain Street development had been challenging, and there had been people who wanted to see it demolished.
But she said: “We made the right decision to keep it and had the faith to motor on. This is just the latest chapter.
“It’s fair to say the area in the past posed a regeneration challenge, but now, in partnership with Bradford Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and our contractor Bullock, this development marks a new era for Chain Street and the wider Goitside area.”
The next chapter for Goitside will be Phase 2, which will see work start either later this year or early 2014 to build more new homes on the open grassland facing Chain Street.
Last year, a ‘U-shaped’ block bordering Baptist Place, Chain Street and Longcroft Place was demolished and Incommunities put in plans for a mixed tenure development of homes for sale and rent on the cleared site.
There will also be a Phase 3 if funding from the Government materialises, to build an 84-bed extra care scheme for the elderly. The complex, which would go on the lower car park at Ashton Street, would fill a gap between sheltered housing needs and the next stage, which could be moving into a care or nursing home.