Communities ripped apart by demolition
P OTTERIES born and bred and fiercely proud of it, Simon Keats is angry at what has happened to the housing in his city.
Father-of-two, Simon, 49, is one half of North Staffs Housing which he manages with Rod Smith. The business is based at the North Staffs Caravans site, which has been run by his family for more than 65 years.
In his own words Simon is a property broker. But unlike estate agents, North Staffs Housing buys houses and then sells them to investors looking to put their money into a safe haven which will also net them a decent return. And as Simon says: "We are delivering a yield of around 12 per cent on tenanted property, typically a two or three bedroom terraced house, and it is reasonable to assume that if you buy at the moment there will be an asset appreciation over time.''
It is an attractive investment proposition and one which many people have turned to. Since North Staffs Housing was set up ten years ago it has bought and sold more than 1,000 properties in and around Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle.
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As a man proud of his roots he is angry at the housing policies of successive administrations which have left many areas as wastelands. It is not the economic so much as the human cost which angers him.
Simon says: "When Stoke-on-Trent was granted Pathfinder status there was a lot of money from the last Government to knock down whole streets of houses and regenerate the areas. The problem was that all those old Victorian houses were thriving communities and what did we replace them with? There was a phase of building apartments but I don't think Potteries folk want to live in apartments.
"Now there is no money to rebuild and so we have large swathes of Stoke-on-Trent left as wastelands and communities have been destroyed. It is one thing to decide to demolish old terraces, it is quite another to do it when there is no money for rebuilding. I think it is terrible what has been allowed to happen, when so many people have been affected and communities ripped up. There has been no strategy married to having the finance in place.
"I was born in Burslem and am proud of this city and even though I am saddened at what has happened here industrially over the past 20 years or so I am still happy to say that I'm from North Staffordshire.
"Geographically this area is ideally placed for businesses, we have a good workforce and I think we're decent people to deal with. There is so much potential here for industry.''
A keen Stoke City supporter, Simon also likes skiing and keeping fit at Green's Health and Fitness centre at Trentham Lakes.
So if you're looking for a better return on your money and want something safer than shares, remember the old adage that you can't beat bricks and mortar.