What is a HMO?
Local HMO Plans
Ten Point Plan
Leeds HMO Lobby
Use Classes Order
Taxation of HMOs
Students & Community
National HMO Lobby
Silo Thinking Misses Boat
News Release 10 August 2006
Two recent government publications reveal a crying need for joined-up
thinking in approaches to housing problems in general - and to those
of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in particular.
The Dept for Communities & Local Government's Housing Research
Summary 228 on Dealing with 'Problem'
Private Rented Housing was published on 26 July 2006. For
probably the first time, the government has admitted, in the section
on 'The characteristics of localities, properties and residents',
that some of the problems in the private rented sector arise from
student housing. They give the example of Canterbury, where "the
'swamping' of areas with student households has begun to concern
residents and members."
Of course, this has long been acknowledged by communities and many
councils, and even by universities and landlords. In Northern Ireland,
HMO Plan was published on 27 June 2006 by the Planning
Service of the Dept of the Environment, for public consultation.
The Plan shows what can be done in principle if there are adequate
planning powers available. [In practice, the Plan is seriously flawed.]
Unfortunately, Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with
planning controls on HMOs. Unfortunately too, the Plan also indicates
that we may have missed the boat in controlling HMOs - the horse
has already bolted, as it were. Communities like the Holyland in
Belfast are already overwhelmed by HMOs.
The Belfast Plan shows also that national planning powers on HMOs
are necessary but not sufficient. To be implemented, they also need
local planning policies. (Towns throughout the UK already know that
local policies without national powers are ineffective.)
The Belfast Plan of course is about planning policy. But it also
recommends parallel housing policy - specifically, the extension
of registration (or licensing) to all HMOs in Belfast, not just
the present partial scheme. This too has lessons for England &
Meanwhile, in Dealing with 'Problem' Private Rented Housing,
the DCLG refers specifically to student HMOs in Canterbury. The
Summary notes, "Canterbury is now introducing an accreditation
scheme specifically for student lettings." Accreditation is
considered elsewhere in the Summary. But this is typical silo thinking
- only housing measures are considered to address housing problems.
What is necessary, as Belfast shows, is that first of all, planning
measures are essential to deal with 'swamping', and secondly, that
planning and housing solutions need to go hand-in-hand.
This failure of joined-up thinking is all the more acute, as the
conversion of family homes into HMOs for students represents a seepage
of hundreds of thousands of houses from the national stock into
what are effectively second-homes - at a time of acute housing shortage.
As the Belfast Plan says, "Purpose built accommodation for
students is considered a more suitable form of accommodation rather
than the conversion of terraced dwellings." (Or indeed, three-bed
semis with gardens.)
Richard Tyler, of the National HMO Lobby, says, "Both these
papers demonstrate the need to break out of the silo, and to undertake
real joined-up policy-making - between planning, housing and education
- and between national and local government - and indeed, between
all the countries of the UK."
1. The National HMO Lobby is a network of forty community associations
in thirty towns, campaigning for effective action nationally and
locally on concentrations of HMOs, to restore balance and sustainability
to their communities.
2. Dept for Communities & Local Government, Housing Research
Summary 228: Dealing with 'Problem' Private Rented Housing
(July 2006) is available online at http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1501867
3. Planning Service, Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs): Subject
Plan for Belfast City Council Area 2015, Draft Plan 2006 Dept
of the Environment, NI (2006) is available online at http://www.planningni.gov.uk/AreaPlans_Policy/Plans/BMA/HMO/default.htm
4. Canterbury City Council Student Impact Scrutiny Review, Draft
Report (June 2006), is available online at http://www.canterbury.gov.uk/assets/scrutiny/studentmain.pdf
5. National HMO Lobby Ten Point Plan
(June 2006) proposes a multilateral approach to concentrations of
National HMO Lobby