BathNES Liberal Democrats
Serving Bath and North East Somerset
Working For You - All Year Round
by Will Sandry
What are homes in multiple occupation (HMOs)?
- Any home with 3 or more un-related people living together who share a kitchen and bathroom, but each have a separate bedroom.
Are homes in multiple occupation a problem?
- Yes and No.
- There is a shortage of all types of housing in the UK. HMOs can be very useful in providing much needed housing, particularly for students, nurses, immigrant workers and young professionals.
- In areas with a high concentration of HMOs, community tensions can arise. This can include extra noise and antisocial behavior, extra waste and litter, parking difficulties, and a general reduction in the long term residents’ “sense of stable community”.
Why is there a problem in Bath?
- Bath is a beautiful and vibrant city and there is a high demand for housing. Over the past decade the two universities have increased their combined student numbers from about 12,000 to over 22,000. In the past 10 years, they have not built 10,000 study rooms on campus or in purpose built accommodation.
- In addition, there have been other society pressures on the availability of housing such as immigrant workers and increasing house prices. Furthermore, Bath as a World Heritage City is a popular destination for visitors. We have an unusually large number of guest houses and hotels.
What’s the problem?
- The conversion of small family homes to HMOs has decreased the availability of affordable housing for young couples and young families. They have also created imbalanced communities. In some streets, over 60% of homes have become HMOs, occupied by a predominantly young, transient community with little in common with the area.
- In most streets in Oldfield Park, over 50% of the adult population lives in an HMO. Click here or on the graph to see data about the number of HMOs in a sample of Oldfield Park streets.
- As young people from Bath, who work in Bath have been forced to move out of the city to find affordable accommodation for their families, the local transport networks have groaned under the strain of the extra journeys in to and out of the city.
Whose fault is it?
- Many people!
- Government ?- between 1992 and 2010 the number of young adults entering higher education has increased from 160,000 to 450,000. It was Government Policy to increase the number of young people going to university, but there was no policy to provide accommodation.
- The universities ? – the universities have been complicit in leaving the provision of extra accommodation for their additional students to “Market forces”. Recently however, they have both started to create Master Plans for each campus.
- The Council ? – The Council has welcomed the universities to the city, but never fully addressed the housing needs of the universities’ expansion in their planning policy. The new draft core strategy has now started to address the issues.
- The estate and letting agents ? – The estate agents have commercialised community housing for profit. They have talked up prices, brought in investors to buy-to-let, and not kept the Housing Market local.
- Students and Young People ? - No.
What’s this “Article 4? all about?
- An article 4 direction means that planning permission would be required to convert a family home in to a HMO. This is not retrospective, so all houses currently HMOs can stay as HMOs. It would only apply to new conversions.
- Additionally new planning policy is required. For example, conversion to a HMO would continue to be permitted unless, for example, 30% of homes in any one street are already HMOs.
Would Selective licensing work instead?
- The quality of HMO housing can be a problem. Many landlords are both good and responsible, however unfortunately, some are not.
- Selective licensing can include fire and gas safety, energy efficiency and upkeep. This drives the improvement of all homes in multiple occupation.
- Selective licensing will be good to improve the quality of existing accommodation, but it will not limit any increase in the number of HMOs.
Will Article 4 decrease house prices for non HMOs?
- Unlikely – Bath has, and continues to have, a resilient property market even in a recession.
What other Councils have implemented an Article 4 direction?
- Local Authorities with a high number of HMOs in their community have already implemented an article 4 direction.
- Click on the links below for each local council’s story: