Leeds HMO Lobby


Leeds HMO Lobby

What is a HMO?

The Lobby

Local Action
Policy Papers
Studentification in Leeds

National Action
Use Classes Order
HMO Licensing
Students & Community

National HMO Lobby

Leeds HMO Lobby



in Leeds in 2013

Evidence presented to
Leeds City Council's Working Group
on Student Accommodation

01 Leeds HMO Lobby, founded in 2000, is a voluntary association of all the local community associations within the Area of Housing Mix (designated in Leeds UDP Policy H15), in Inner NW Leeds. It currently comprises a dozen active organisations: for details of the Lobby, visit the website As its name indicates, the Lobby was established to lobby on the issue of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in Leeds, in particular "to redress their effects on local communities." The Lobby welcomes the Council's investigation into student accommodation in the city.

02 Studentification is defined by the National HMO Lobby (2008) as 'the substitution of a local community by a student community' (p8). This substitution takes place through the transfer of mixed housing to a predominantly student occupancy, especially by conversion of first homes for families into second homes for students, as HMOs. It is peculiar to the United Kingdom, due to a culture of 'going away' to university; elsewhere in the world, the majority of students attend their home university.

03 Studentification in Leeds (and elsewhere) is a three-dimensional problem. In breadth, studentification impacts upon the housing supply in the city generally. In depth, it penetrates the particular neighbourhoods which become the subject of studentification. And in duration, it is a volatile process, continually fluctuating and shifting.

04 The first problem presented by studentification in Leeds is its impact on overall housing supply in the city. This is not rocket science, it has been developing over two decades, and was described in process by Rugg in 2000 (who advocated that "a housing strategy should be integral to the expansion plans of every HEI" [p34]). Very recently, Savills (2013) have estimated that "a potential 66,000 properties … could be freed up for family housing" (p5). It's impossible to be precise in Leeds, as there is no definitive record of the numbers of student HMOs, but a guesstimate would put the figure at around 5,000. This represents a substantial number of houses occupied as second homes for students, rather than as first homes for families. (Of course, not all such properties are now suitable for families: but all could be made available for one or other of the varied groups of resident citizens who are currently without adequate accommodation.) The problems are very similar in many ways to those of rural and other areas where second homes and holiday lets both reduce the number of properties available to local residents, and also price those that are available out of their reach.

Recommendation 1: so that the overall number of students demanding accommodation is reduced (and also to help widen access locally to higher education), the City should lobby its universities to prioritise home recruitment.

Recommendation 2: so that student demand does not reduce the available housing stock by conversion of houses to what are effectively seasonal second homes, the City should encourage the development of accommodation purpose-built for students [but see also Recommendation 5 below].

05 The second problem presented by studentification in Leeds is its impact on the particular neighbourhoods where local communities are replaced by student communities. The problems have long been recognised, by residents, by local government, by universities, even by student unions, and finally by central government (see for instance, HeAL 1999, SHCA 1999, Chrisafis 2000, Smith 2002, UUK 2006, NUS 2007, National HMO Lobby 2008, CLG 2008, CLG Committee 2013, and the changes to the Use Classes Order in 2010). The problems are social (increased antisocial behaviour, crime), environmental (squalor, over-intensive development of properties) and economic (the development of a local 'resort economy'). But most serious is the damage caused to local social capital: Headingley includes a hundred streets where students outnumber residents, and was identified as having the highest anomie (the lowest social cohesion) in the country, in research by Sheffield University in 2008. The problems are not specific to students as such, but arise from the typical characteristics of HMOs, intensive occupation, young adult occupants (novice householders), un-managed occupancy, and short-term occupation. In consequence, Headingley is now as well known as 'student-land' as it is for its sporting associations (and as such, has become a national venue for stag/hen parties and similar celebrations). The upshot is huge damage to the quality of life of those residents who remain.

Recommendation 3: in order to protect as far as possible the quality of life of remaining residents, the City should (a) support the revival of the Shared Housing Action Plan begun in 2001 and last revised in 2008, and
(b) include in the Plan new options which have emerged since that date, such as (1) Early Morning Restriction Orders (Licensing Act 2003, section 172A-172E, brought into force 31 October 2012) in the Headingley/Hyde Park Cumulative Impact Policy area, and (2) waste collection charges, by applying the description in the Controlled Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2012 of "domestic property used in the course of a business for the provision of self-catering accommodation" (entry 11 of the table in paragraph 2 of Schedule 1) to waste from businesses that provide self-catering accommodation to students.

06 The third problem presented by studentification is its inherent volatility - it is not a static problem. On the one hand, it is a fluctuating problem - throughout the '90s, student numbers (in Leeds and nationally) steadily increased, as government policy expanded higher education (without consideration for the accommodation implications); for Leeds, the '00s marked a nadir, as studentification consolidated in and around Headingley; now, in the '10s, the pressure has begun to ease in some areas, as student numbers nationally and locally have begun to decline. This has been for a number of reasons - competition from purpose-built accommodation has reduced demand fro HMOs; the economic situation has encouraged many to study from home (or even to reconsider attending HE at all); national demographics are seeing a 13% decrease in the number of school-leavers over the decade (these may increase again in the '20s). On the other hand, studentification is a shifting problem, geographically. Due largely to the initial accident that the original University was located on the A660, and the (non-accidental) development of its halls of residence (from Devonshire Hall onwards) along this arterial route, Headingley became virtually the only part of Leeds known to students, and therefore the focus of private rented sector provision of accommodation (Smith, 2002). However, over the last five years or so, as research by re'new and Unipol has shown (2012), the focus has shifted significantly. Leeds Met University and purpose-built accommodation have developed in and around the city centre, with the consequence that the centre of gravity of studentification has shifted in that direction, towards Hyde Park and the Centre itself (many recent students as a result are unfamiliar with Headingley). City policy on student accommodation therefore must take account of these shifts and fluctuations, and must address the different problems of areas which are newly studentifying, areas which are currently intensively studentified, and areas (including some 'traditional' student areas) which are experiencing the double whammy of de-studentification.

Recommendation 4: in order to maintain a record of the numbers and location of HMOs in Leeds (as well as to protect the interests of tenants), as many other local housing authorities have done, the City should reconsider introducing Additional HMO Licensing.

07 The problem of areas newly studentifying has been prompted by the recent proposal to develop student accommodation in Russell Street, in the midst of Leeds' business district. (For residents of Inner NW Leeds, there is an irony that a threat to business has prompted a reaction, while 'traditional' residential student areas have suffered for decades.) The problems noted in paragraph 05 above have been invoked in relation to Russell Street. And they are of course a potential threat. But the problems of Leeds 6 have arisen as a result of a complete lack of planning controls, and hence of very high concentrations of both HMOs and purpose-built accommodation. As recommended above (R2) purpose-built accommodation should be encouraged (to liberate housing stock for the city's residents). But this does not mean that it should be developed willy-nilly: first of all, none should be allowed in existing areas of studentification; and secondly, nor should it be allowed to develop as new areas of high concentration elsewhere (the plight of Little Woodhouse provides a warning). The development of new purpose-built accommodation can also, in susceptible areas, bring HMOs in their wake (as they familiarise students with new areas).

Recommendation 5: so that new concentrations of student accommodation do not develop, the City should move promptly to prepare Supplementary Planning Documents to implement Policy H6 of the Core Strategy, which covers HMOs, purpose-built student accommodation and flat conversions. Such policy should ensure that not more than 20% of the local population is temporary (this figure has been proposed by the National HMO Lobby and also by popular holiday destinations, rural and coastal [see Collinson 2013]; due to the high occupancy of HMOs, this translates to 10% of properties). [Proposals for a Sustainable Communities Policy by Leeds HMO Lobby are available.]

08 The problems of areas currently intensively studentified have been outlined in paragraph 05 above. In planning terms, now that Leeds has an Article 4 Direction, they are largely protected from further concentration by UDP Policy H15. However, loop-holes remain, and need to be rectified.

Recommendation 6: in order to improve the protection of studentified areas in the Area of Housing Mix, the City should adopt further planning measures, such as -
(a) a policy which prevents conversion to HMO of properties falling within all uses other than Class C3;
(b) a policy which excludes all HMOs, C4 or sui generis, from permitted development rights intended for householders (as adopted by a number of other local planning authorities) [HMOs are excluded from the proposals noted in R7b below]; and
(c) consideration of a local occupancy clause for properties in the Area of Housing Mix.
(d) Notwithstanding the above constraints, exceptions should be considered for householders trapped in studentified areas, who find it impossible to sell to other householders (due to the deterioration of the neighbourhood) or to landlords (due to the prohibition on HMOs).

09 The problem of de-studentification compounds the problems of those areas that have been studentified. They have suffered social problems, environmental problems and economic problems, and most profoundly, loss of social capital. Now their damaged neighbourhoods face de-population altogether. Their reputation and appearance discourages resettlement by long-term residents. Ill-advised new landlords, with large mortgages to service, find it difficult to sell or let. Parts of Kirkstall for instance face a vicious circle of decline. These problems have been the subject of informal debate (re'new/unipol, 2013) and of some ill-considered recommendations (re'new/unipol, 2012).

Recommendation 7: in order to encourage the return of long-term residents into the Area of Housing Mix, the City should develop appropriate policies, such as
(a) offering landlords permission for change of use from Class C4 to Class C3, without losing the right to revert to C4 use, for (say) five years;
(b) allowing change of use of all properties in the Area of Housing Mix to Class C3 as permitted development (permitted development of shops to Class C3 is proposed in a current consultation by the government); and
(c) adopting a policy on S106 affordable housing whereby (1) under S106 Agreements, commuted sums are provided by all housing developments in the Area of Housing Mix, and by all student- and HE-related developments in the city, and (2) a special purpose vehicle is established, with local Housing Associations, to use such sums to acquire surplus student HMOs off-site for use as affordable housing.

Recommendation 8: in order to ensure a coherent planning approach, the City (through the local Area Committee) should ensure that all relevant policies recommended above are included in Neighbourhood Plans developed in Inner NW Leeds.

10 It is a tragedy that though our students should be an asset to the city of Leeds, their housing has become a liability. Leeds HMO Lobby hopes that the Working Group investigation will begin to heal some of the damage that has been done, and restore the student population as an asset (see Tyler 2012).

Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, Leeds HMO Lobby, August 2013

Documents Available
Leeds City Council, Shared Housing Group, Shared Housing Action Plan Update 2008
Leeds HMO Lobby, Sustainable Communities Policy, 2013

Chrisafis, Angelique, 'Two square miles of housing hell' The Guardian, 24 October 2000
Collinson, Patrick, 'The finances and morality of buying a holiday home to let', Guardian: Money, 3 August 2013, pp1, 5
CLG, Evidence Gathering - Housing in Multiple Occupation and possible planning responses 2008
CLG Committee, The Private Rented Sector, 2013
Headingley Against Landlordism (HeAL), Headingley in Crisis: a survey of the views of long-term residents, 1999
Leeds HMO Lobby website
National HMO Lobby, Balanced Communities & Studentification, 2008
NUS (National Union of Students), Students in the Community: Working together to achieve harmony, 2007
re'new/unipol, Assessment of housing market conditions and demand trends in Inner North West Leeds, 2012
re'new/unipol, Workshop on Housing Issues in Headingley, Hyde Park and Woodhouse, 1 March 2013
Rugg, Julie, et al, The nature & impact of student demand on housing markets, 2000
Savills, Spotlight: UK Student Housing, Summer 2013
Sheffield University, Changing UK: the way we live now, 2008
Smith, Darren, Processes of Studentification in Leeds, University of Leeds, 2002
South Headingley Community Association, Headingley, heading where? public meeting, 12 October 1999
Tyler, Richard, 'The View from the Local Community' (pp20-23) in NUS, The Future of Student Housing, 2012
Universities UK, Studentification: a guide to opportunities, challenges and practice 2006


Leeds HMO Lobby
email: hmolobby@hotmail.com website: www.hmolobby.org.uk/leeds