What is a HMO?
Local HMO Plans
Ten Point Plan
Leeds HMO Lobby
Use Classes Order
Taxation of HMOs
Students & Community
National HMO Lobby
Engaging with the Community
An Open Letter to Our Universities
Dear Professor Trainor, President, Universities UK
1. As Co-ordinator of the National HMO Lobby, I write to you in
your capacity as President of Universities UK. As you may know,
the National HMO Lobby is a nation-wide network of fifty local community
groups in thirty towns concerned about the impact on their communities
of concentrations of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation), especially
(but not only) shared student houses. Our organisations have been
in dialogue for some years – in fact, since the inception
of the research in 2004 which became your publication, Studentification:
a guide to opportunities, challenges and practice (2006).
We contributed to the content, and we participated in its launch
in January 2006 and its presentation to Parliament in June. Today,
I attended your conference, Uni and the Community: new directions
for public engagement.
2. The members of the National HMO Lobby of course have their own
relationships with local members of Universities UK. It has to be
said that these have not always been cordial. However, recently,
there have been some significant moves by individual universities
towards a deeper understanding of our communities’ concerns.
A pioneer was the Vice Chancellor of Loughborough University in
her presentation to the Parliamentary University Group in November
of last year. This year, the two universities in Nottingham have
committed themselves to supporting changes in planning legislation
to manage HMOs. So too has Leeds University, as well as supporting
the introduction of Additional HMO Licensing. And this University
has said explicitly, "demographic imbalance [is] an issue ...
in certain areas the concentration of students creates significant
problems in creating a sustainable community ... It is acknowledged
that in some areas the loss of community can not be mitigated by
an increased access to resources and facilities."
3. The National HMO Lobby is keen to move forward in positive dialogue
with Universities UK. To this end, we wish to present to you a twofold
challenge. The first part of this arises from the Higher Education
Partnership for Sustainability publication, Accounting
for Sustainability (2003). The Lobby has produced a Discussion
Document which explores the implications of this Guide. We identify
especially two major costs to local communities which should be
included in any attempt to account for an institution’s sustainability.
The first of these is the cost to the neighbouring community of
coping with the impact on the community of huge numbers of its clients,
its students, whose presence raises a whole range of social, environmental
and economic issues (outlined in Studentification). The
second however is largely unacknowledged, and this is the huge loss
of homes from the local housing stock, which are bought by landlords,
parents, investors, to let as seasonal second homes to students.
Our first challenge therefore is to urge Universities UK to press
its members to adopt the approach outlined in Accounting for
Sustainability, and in the interests of its own and its neighbours
viability, to account systematically for their sustainability.
4. While our first challenge is, if you like, reactive –
our second is proactive. Whilst the HEPS Guide is about measuring
what has been done, a recent proposition from across the Atlantic
is about what might be done. The National Association of College
& University Business Officers in the USA has issued Communities
of Opportunity: Smart Growth Strategies for Colleges and Universities
(July 2007). Smart growth strategies help to ensure that new growth
and development meet the institutions' mission to provide high-quality
education, support research and innovation, and serve the community
in which they live. NACUBO identifies a number of arguments for
adopting such strategies, including “Colleges and universities
and the surrounding communities can work together across the traditional
boundary of the campus to solve challenges in mutually beneficial
ways.” Much of the detail of this proposition is of necessity
peculiar to the USA. But might not Universities UK promote a similar
project in this country?
5. Both of these initiatives are ‘ecological’ in a
broad sense, and both are collaborative. They are in the interests
of HEIs. They are in the interests of their host communities. And
they are in the interests of the planet (or at least, of the people
who live on the planet). The Department for Communities & Local
Government is preparing to launch a Taskforce, to explore the impact
of studentification. The Lobby asks Universities UK to participate
in this Taskforce with enthusiasm – and to use it as a platform
for a collaborative project on strategies for sustainable Higher
Education, to take a new direction in public engagement.
Yours sincerely, Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National HMO
Lobby, 25 October 2007
Professor Trainor replied on 26 November 2007. On 11 March
2008, the Lobby wrote again, partly with reference to DIUS' New
University Challenge, partly to send Prof Trainor a copy
of Balanced Communities & Studentification.
National HMO Lobby