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Student Housing Project Group

1 Past In 2001, the Private Rented Sector Strategic Working Group was established by Leeds City Council’s Department of Housing, as part of an overall review of the city’s Housing Strategy. This Group in turn set up three Project Groups, one of which was concerned with Student Housing (which comprised half of the private rented sector in the city). The SHPG comprised representatives of the Planning and Housing Depts of the Council, of both universities and their students, of Unipol and Leeds Property Association – and through Leeds HMO Lobby, of the local community.
1.1 Leadership: SHPG has been chaired by senior officers of the Council, initially Robin Lawler, and subsequently Andy Beattie, Deputy Chief Environmental Health Officer.
1.2 Servicing: SHPG has been serviced by the Housing Dept, now Neighbourhoods & Housing (specifically, Neil Marsden, Principal Environmental Health Officer).
1.3 Agenda: In 2002, the Council adopted the Shared Housing Action Plan (SHAP), comprising 53 action-points, and delegated oversight of its implementation to SHPG.

2 Present The Student Housing Project Group is currently in crisis. Usually, it meets approximately every six weeks – but three months have now passed since the last meeting (6 April 2005). Evidence for its success is unclear – anecdotal evidence on the ground suggests that studentification in & around Headingley may have reached a high-water mark; but the latest figures from the University of Leeds show an actual increase in imbalance in student housing in Leeds. What is clear is that developments are market-lead, not managed – the proposed student village in South Leeds appears to have collapsed, while a de facto ‘village’ is in course of development in Little Woodhouse.
2.1 Leadership: SHPG officers have accepted Leeds HMO Lobby’s view that the distribution of student housing in Leeds is the key issue (rather than standards). They argue that this is a planning issue (not housing), so SHPG is more appropriately located in the Development Department, rather than Neighbourhoods & Housing.
2.2 Servicing: The officer servicing the Group has done so without any allocation of hours, and this has frustrated efforts to make the Group more effective. In addition, Neighbourhoods & Housing is now confronted with the enormous demands of introducing HMO licensing.
2.3 Agenda: SHAP was always limited (it lacked any objectives, or monitoring mechanism). Accordingly, on 13 February 2004, on the instigation of the Lobby, SHPG agreed to review SHAP. But the resulting Report (the draft was tabled on 6 April 2005) is disappointing. Its conclusions and recommendations have been rejected by Leeds HMO Lobby ( see Response to Draft SHAP Review).

3 Future Leeds has hitherto been at the cutting edge of responses to studentification. Universities UK’s forthcoming Guidance is largely based on the ‘Leeds Model’. But the Student Housing Project Group initiative is in danger of ending in ignominy. Leeds HMO Lobby has three proposals for its re-launch.
3.1 Leadership The Group needs strategic leadership, a driving force, in a position to push policies, and if necessary, take risks. This implies a Chair who is an elected member, rather than an officer of the Council.
3.2 Servicing The Group is not directly responsible for any actions. But overseeing an Action Plan requires investment of time in co-ordinating efforts of partners. Wherever SHPG is located within the Council, it requires servicing by an officer with dedicated time.
3.3 Agenda SHPG requires an agenda which identifies objectives, which approaches these thoroughly and systematically, with a clear sense of priorities, and which regularly monitors progress. Leeds HMO Lobby has proposed SHAP2 (Student Housing Action Plan, version 2), which does all these things, in a manner which we believe is not contentious and would be acceptable to our partners. We recommend its adoption by a reconstituted Student Housing Project Group.

Leeds HMO Lobby, 4 July 2005


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