a guide to opportunities, challenges and practice
Universities UK, London, January 2006
Universities UK's report on studentification originated in the
National HMO Lobby's concern with students
and communities. On 12 February 2004, the Minister
for Housing, Planning & Regeneration met representatives of
the Lobby and concerned MPs. Subsequently, the ODPM and the DfES
agreed to fund a research project, which was commissioned in December
by Universities UK and SCOP, in collaboration with the LGA. The
project was led by Dr Darren Smith (University of Brighton), and
research began in January 2005. The Report, titled Studentification:
a guide to opportunities, challenges and practice, was finally
published in January 2006 [ISBN 1 84036 127 1], and launched at
the UUK conference The Engagement of Students and Higher Education
Institutions with their Communities in London on 25 January
2006. It is available on the Universities
UK website. It was presented to MPs in a Breakfast Seminar Students
& Communites Living in Harmony? at the House of Commons
on 27 June 2006.
Below may be found -
the Terms of Reference of the research project,
correspondence with the National HMO
the evidence submitted by Leeds HMO
the National HMO Lobby press release
details of press coverage,
a report on the launch conference,
a representation to the HE Minister, Bill
the Lobby's news release on the
and a report on the Breakfast Seminar.
DfES Students & Local Communities
Draft Project Specification
The Project Specification states "In its approach to this study
the Government has made it clear that it is looking toward non-legislative,
non-regulatory solutions." It identifies the Scope of the Project
as follows -
· Assess the scale and, in more detail, the nature of the
problems noting any variations between localities and the reasons
for these. Consideration should also be given to why ‘ghettoisation’
is not perceived as a problem in some university towns but is in
other towns. Does it have advantages as well as disadvantages? What
is the impact of the recent trend whereby some universities have
built whole integrated villages?
· Utilise findings from relevant studies e.g. University
of York on student demand /housing markets, the study in Leeds by
University of Brighton.
· Establish what are the current (and prospective) powers
available to local authorities – and the use made of them:
(i) Planning. Physical conversion of a property from one to two
or more units requires pp. but change from family occupied to multiple
occupation does not – within the same Use Class. Use made
of power available (Section 215? T&CP) to require untidy properties
to be cleared up at the owner’s expense.
(ii) Housing. Current legislation and Housing Bill – licensing
of HMOs and HHSRS.
(iii) ‘Student Housing Restraint Areas’.
· Assess effectiveness of current practice. E.g. what is
the treatment of these issues in community strategies, local partnerships
and local development plans? Are accreditation schemes (operated
by universities themselves or organizations such as UNIPOL) effective
in reducing physical deterioration and behavioural problems? Are
dispersal strategies effective?
· Is informal cooperation between local authorities and
universities effective in reducing problems? Can it be improved?
What are the main elements of good practice? What action might be
taken by the LGA and UUK and by the Government?
· Do good examples exist where student populations have
been effectively dispersed across an area and how was this achieved.
· Examples of effective interaction between universities
and local communities via community liaison officers. Are their
any examples of the building of relationships through student volunteering?
· Consideration of a small number of examples of best practice
and case-studies of the more holistic impact that universities have
on a local community.
· Effective planning for university ‘new-builds’
in order to not exacerbate existing problems.
· The role of the private landlord and the buy to let market
and how universities (and others) could influence investment decisions.
National HMO Lobby, Students
From: National HMO Lobby
Date: 28 February 2005
Dear Dr Smith, I have circulated your Survey to all the members
of the National HMO Lobby. I hope you receive plenty of responses.
On behalf of the Lobby as a whole, in addition, I'd like to make
one or two general observations.
First of all, we regard the title of the Survey as a bit of a misnomer.
The problem is not students in the community
- indeed this is something we all welcome. The problems arise precisely
when students cease to be in the community because their
numbers increase so much that they outnumber the resident population
- and the community finds itself in the
Secondly, there are some omissions from the ground
covered by the Survey. Questions on these issues would have been
useful. (1) The size of this problem is of course very important
to us. (2) Students themselves, and also the private rented sector,
have a responsibility to address the problems - and indeed sometimes
they do. (3) Accommodation strategies of local authorities are probably
more important to us than those of the HEIs; and students and the
PRS can also adopt approaches to accommodation. (4) The role of
the government is of fundamental importance.
Thirdly, we all feel that the problems have arisen as a result
of neglect. (1) National government was alerted
long ago to the issues, but until now no action has been taken -
indeed, we are still at the research stage (which we find a bit
redundant). (2) Local government has rarely taken any initiative,
but has had to be pushed into action by local communities. (3) HEIs
have maintained a lordly aloofness, until recently; such action
as has been taken has been largely cosmetic. (4) Students have resisted
the key problem; again, their response has been cosmetic. (5) The
private rented sector has of course been entirely opportunistic,
and entirely neglectful of the consequences of its actions.
Finally, any solution to the problems will require
a number of key elements. (1) Co-ordination among all agencies
concerned is essential: LAs, HEIs, the PRS, students and local communities,
all have an interest; none can tackle the issues alone. (2) An agreed
Strategy in each town is crucial - including an overall strategy
for addressing the issue, particular policies (housing,
planning, transport, etc) for implementing it, and not least, specified
agencies to put these into effect. (3) Powers
are needed for any degree of success - resources for the HEIs, legislation
(especially planning) for LAs [though your Brief prevents you recommending
legislation, we hope you will report our belief that it is essential].
We look forward to your Report. Best wishes, Richard Tyler, National
Leeds HMO Lobby, Students
& Community in Leeds
Leeds HMO Lobby returned a Questionnaire
to Dr Darren Smith in February 2005.
NATIONAL HMO LOBBY, Living
in the Shadow of the Ivory Tower
Press Release 24 January 2006
1. The National HMO Lobby warmly welcomes Universities UK's new
publication Studentification: a guide to opportunities, challenges
and practice, to be launched at a conference in London on Wednesday.
The Guide, in its very title indeed, accords formal recognition
to the problem of studentification (the impact of high
concentrations of students on communities adjacent to universities).
Its Checklist provides helpful guidance to universities and councils
grappling with the problem. And it gives invaluable leverage to
communities still attempting dialogue with reluctant institutions.
However, the Guide has fundamental flaws. It entirely omits the
crucial role of national government, and especially national legislation.
Its representation of studentification is confusing and potentially
misleading. And it doesn't evaluate the real significance of studentification.
2. Studentification has emerged as a problem over the last decade,
following government commitment to the expansion of higher education.
The Guide as it were now officially recognises this problem. And
it spells out its implications - its impact on the sustainability
of communities (at a time when the government is committed to creating
sustainable communities), and the array of problems which follow
in its wake, social, environmental and economic.
3. The Checklist in the Guide provides valuable advice to HEIs
and LAs on how to address these problems, especially by drawing
on experience from around the country. (The National HMO Lobby's
own contribution is a survey of local
4. Unfortunately, only an honourable few universities have responded
positively and promptly to the issue of studentification. The very
existence of Studentification not only gives heart to communities
struggling with its effects - but it also gives them leverage on
those universities reluctant to address the issues, sometimes even
to recognise them. No longer will they be able to say, 'What problem?'
Their communities can now ask, 'Why aren't you doing this, and this,
and this ...?'
5. However, the Guide has some fundamental flaws. First of all,
the ghost at the banquet is national government. 'Central government'
is identified on page 10 as one of the half-dozen key stakeholders.
Government policy has generated the problem (by expanding HE without
provision for student accommodation). And the absence of adequate
legislation in most of the UK (not all) is the greatest
single weakness in tackling the concentrations of HMOs giving rise
to studentification. Mistakenly, the Guide alleges (para 4.13) that
the Use Classes Order is one of the powers available to councils
- but this is where the key weakness lies. The National HMO Lobby
and its members have long campaigned for reform of the UCO, to no
avail (see our recent correspondence
with David Miliband's office, or our sustained lobbying
before that). Extraordinarily, the Guide's terms of reference precluded
attention to legislation - thereby emasculating its impact.
6. Though the Guide's title is Studentification, the use
of the concept leaves much to be desired. There is no question that
a university can be a major asset to any town. But it is unequivocal
to the Lobby that studentification is a major liability. Students
in general are not a problem - studentification, the substitution
of a local community by a student community, is a problem. This
is a clear distinction, but it is muddied by the Guide. Para 3.2
slides from 'the effects of studentification' to 'the positive effects
of student populations' in Table 1 - which is not at all the same
thing. A discussion document on Studentification
by the Lobby provides a succinct analysis of the concept, as well
as its causes, course and consequences.
7. This confusion leads in turn to a fundamental weakness in Chapter
4, 'Responding to the challenges of studentification'. Practice
is divided into two main areas, a strategic approach and local-level
initiatives (4.2). But the real distinction is between addressing
the causes of studentification and tackling its effects.
Studentification itself is a demographic problem, an imbalance in
the local population. It arises from patterns of housing. It gives
rise to a whole range of social, environmental and economic problems.
To be sure, the latter must be tackled. But efforts there are futile
unless the key issue, student accommodation, is addressed.
(Also, the Guide does not evaluate the whether the examples of action
given have actually worked in practice.)
8. Finally, the Guide gives no adequate account of the impact of
studentification. The Table in Appendix 1 (p49) is entirely misleading.
Figures are given for student populations in towns as a whole -
but the whole point about studentification is that it impacts on
particular areas. In Leeds, for instance, students are
shown as little more than 10% of the city's population - whereas
in the 72 streets in a quarter-square-mile of South Headingley,
with a population of 10,000, students outnumber residents by two-to-one!
Again, Table 1 and Table 2 suggest a cost-benefit analysis of studentification.
But this is a quite inadequate approach. The Lobby has taken a leaf
out of HE's book, Accounting for Sustainability (published
by the HEPS in 2003). The Lobby has followed its guidelines to see
how the impacts locally of a HEI might be costed. Some costs may
be readily calculated - waste disposal and cleansing, planning compliance,
policing, and so on. Others, like community decline, are harder
to quantify. But the UN for instance suggests avoidance values
and restoration values. At current house prices, the restoration
costs of Headingley in Leeds work out at something like a £half-billion!
A discussion of Accounting
for Sustainability is on our website.
9. "Universities UK's publication of Studentification
certainly offers encouragement to those of us living in the shadow
of the ivory tower - and emanating from the ivory tower itself,
it is especially welcome," says Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator
of the National HMO Lobby. "But a stronger, brighter light
is needed really to lift the shadow."
Laura Clark, 'The student ghettos' Daily Mail, 24 January
Donald MacLeod & David Ward, 'Doner
your way' The Guardian: EducationGuardian, 24 January
Olga Wojtas, 'Report highlights sweet side of student invasion'
Times Higher Education Supplement, 27 January 2006
and articles in local press, including Nottingham Evening Post
and Yorkshire Evening Post [Leeds]
also, Anushka Asthana, 'You
can't live here, students told' The Observer, 29 January
Universities UK The Engagement
of Students and Higher Education Institutions with their Communities
Conference, London, 25 January 2006
REPORT by Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National HMO Lobby
The conference was convened to launch Universities UK’s Studentification:
a guide to opportunities, challenges and practice. It was attended
by some 80 delegates, 75% from HEIs. But other stakeholders were
also represented, including seven students, six from local authorities,
and two each from national government, the private sector and communities
(Jo from Canterbury and me).
After the usual introductions by the Chair, Sir Muir Russell (VC,
Glasgow), the first presentation was by Dr Darren Smith (Brighton),
author of Studentification: he outlined the background,
his key findings, and current practice; he made no attempt to analyse
studentification. There followed a short question session.
A Panel Session followed, and four speakers made short statements
in response to the Report. I summarised the points made in our Press
Release [above] (welcome: but no legislation, no analysis, no data).
Cllr Dave Trimble (Nottingham CC) emphasised the absence of legislative
recommendations. Patricia Ambrose (SCOP) saw studentification as
part of the sustainability agenda. Veronica King (NUS) thought the
major issue was the image of students. Questions from the floor
represented the three attitudes identified below. In response to
the questions, all the panellists agreed on the need for legislation.
After a break, a number of Discussion Groups ran in parallel.
Mine on ‘Sustaining Communities’ was concerned with
what communities could do (get organised, take some action, but
mainly lobbying, with examples from Leeds). Martin Blakey (Unipol)
was concerned with ‘Managing Private Accommodation’,
especially managing properties and managing tenants. Alison Barlow
(Loughborough) spoke on ‘Building Links with Communities’
(especially who, how and why) and Juliet Millican (Brighton) on
Community University Partnership Programmes. Gerry McCormac (QU
Belfast) and Veronica King (NUS) were concerned with ‘Communicating
with the Student Community’. And Dan Lucas (Nottingham CC)
spoke on key issues and working in partnership with local government.
The most popular Groups were those presented by HEIs.
After lunch, Bill Rammell, Minister of State for HE, gave a keynote
address: he was concerned primarily with HE’s contribution
to communities – economic, community involvement, social &
cultural life, & wider participation. (I asked how communities
were to be sustained, and whether government would consider legislative
reform to do so.)
The Discussion Groups ran again, with different delegates. Finally,
the Chair summed up. He identified two things emerging from the
day – the need for active use of the Report by HEIs; and the
need to address changes in areas as a result of the impact of HEIs.
He thanked all the participants, the speakers, the organisers and
the delegates. [A report on the conference will be posted on the
Evaluation: As the Lobby pointed out
to Dr Smith (Studentification, para 2.1, bullet 5) there
are half-a-dozen stakeholders concerned with studentification –
central and local government, universities and students, the private
sector – and communities themselves. Three broad attitudes
to studentification prevail across these groups. (1) There are those
who Know what constitutes studentification: the
communities affected, and those officers who work with them (including
students). (2) There are those who Don’t Know:
the majority in most groups. (3) There are those in denial, who
Deny studentification, regarding the idea as an
attack on students: for instance, NUS, and some in HEIs. The UUK
Conference confirmed that these are the prevalent attitudes. The
Deniers saw the Report, and especially those who criticised
its inadequacies, as anti-student. Those who Know despaired
of its misrepresentation of studentification, and worse, its fudging
of the issues (especially blurring, rather than clarifying, the
distinction between students and studentification).
The force of this confusion, and therefore the failure of the Report,
was apparent among the Don’t Knows (including the
Chair and the Minister) – who remained bemused that (given
the evident benefits of HE) studentification remained an issue for
National HMO Lobby, Studentification
From: National HMO Lobby
Date: 1 February 2006
Dear Minister, I was pleased to meet you at the Universities UK
conference on Studentification last week. I'm now taking
advantage of your invitation to follow up the conference issues
First, I must say that the National HMO Lobby fully endorses the
points you made in your Keynote Address about the potential
benefits of universities to communities, economic, social, cultural,
and so on. I say 'potential' because in far too many university
towns these are not realised - indeed, they are negated by the very
phenomenon of studentification. There is a fundamental
distinction to be made between students in general (as part of the
total population of a town) and studentification in particular
- by which we mean very high concentrations of students in very
particular areas (such that they in fact outnumber residents). In
these cases, the potential benefits are in fact inverted - diverse
communities become monocultures, the local economy becomes seasonal
and distorted (a 'resort' economy), crime and grime replace clean,
quiet and safe neighbourhoods. One of our main criticisms of UUK's
Studentification is that this crucial distinction is fudged.
Another criticism is that there is no attention at all to the real
answer to the problem - adequate powers for local authorities to
manage the present free-for-all in the student housing market. You
will no doubt have noticed the current furore over the Loughborough
case, where students are banned from a new estate. It has been condemned
as 'discriminatory' (as have other measures, like Leeds' proposed
Area of Student Housing Restraint). But it could also be praised
as an attempt by the local authority to preserve the equal opportunity
of residents to enjoy their community.
But the real significance of such cases is that they are desperate
measures, resorted to by LAs because of the inadequacy of planning
legislation. What we seek is simply reform of the Use Classes Order,
such that HMOs (houses in multiple occupation, including shared
student houses) are subject to planning permission (as they already
are in Northern Ireland). This would enable LAs to manage local
housing provision, and avoid the concentrations of shared housing,
which are the cause of the problems. (This would not damage housing
provision - HMOs are parasitic on the basic housing stock. In Leeds
for instance 5-6,000 family homes have been converted to HMOs for
seasonal occupation by students, when we have 500 homeless families
and 5,000 overcrowded.)
Studentification is a real problem, and UUK's Guide established
this: "It is incontrovertible that the negative effects of
‘studentification’ are evident in several towns and
cities across the UK" (para 3.12). The solution is to be found
in addressing the causes (not the effects) - the provision of student
accommodation. This means two things - (1) increased purpose-built
accommodation for students (in appropriate locations) to relieve
pressure on communities; and (2) effective management of the private
rented sector, through planning legislation. The National HMO Lobby
urges you to take up these issues, within your own Department, and
Best wishes, Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National HMO Lobby
Acknowledged by the Minister,Bill Rammell MP, on 14 March 2006.
NATIONAL HMO LOBBY, Faint
Praise for Universities
News Release 19 June 2006
The National HMO Lobby welcomes Universities UK's recent Studentification
Guide, says Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator of the Lobby. The Guide
will be the subject of a 'Breakfast Seminar', hosted by Baroness
Andrews, Minister for Housing, at the House of Commons next week,
on Tuesday 27 June. We are pleased to heap it with faint praise!
The Lobby represents community groups in thirty towns and cities
affected by concentrations of HMOs (houses in multiple occupation),
and we provided a wealth of evidence to UUK - so we think we know
what we are talking about. The Lobby has praise (and criticism)
for three features of the Guide.
# First of all, the Lobby welcomes official recognition
of the phenomenon of studentification. For too long, the issue has
been ignored or denied (regrettably, some stakeholders are still
in denial). The Guide makes it quite clear that there is a problem:
"It is incontrovertible that the negative effects of studentification
are evident in several towns and cities across the UK" (para
BUT the Guide undoes all its good work by fudging the issue. There
is a clear distinction between students and studentification,
which the Guide ignores. Students have been welcome for generations
by communities in university towns for the diversity they bring.
But studentification is a different matter altogether -
this is when students cease to be part of the community,
and instead overwhelm it. Diversity is replaced by monotony.
All the benefits are negated - contrary to the Guide, there
are no benefits to studentification. (What's more, this fudge
casts communities into a quite un-deserved 'anti-student' role.)
# Secondly, the Lobby welcomes the way the Guide fingers the main
stakeholders who have a responsibility to take
action, the universities and the councils. Both
have been happy to keep their heads down, and many have acted only
under pressure from local communities.
BUT the Guide quite ignores all the other stakeholders. There are
half-a-dozen interested parties altogether. Most immediately, there
are the communities and the students themselves,
who bear the brunt of the problems. Then there are the landlords,
who are the active agents of studentification. And not least, there
is Her Majesty's Government, whose (well-meant) HE policies
caused the problem in the first place.
# Finally, the Lobby welcomes the 47 action-points
in the 'Checklist for stakeholders'. No longer can local authorities
and universities shrug their shoulders and pretend that nothing
can be done.
BUT almost all of the 47 actions are addressed towards the symptoms
of studentification. Certainly they are necessary - but they are
nowhere near sufficient. No attempt is made to address the root
causes of studentification. These causes are certainly
pretty intractable. But the Lobby has identified ten key action-lines
in our Ten Point Plan - and only three or four of these
(at best) appear in the Checklist.
Our Ten Point Plan is our riposte to the Studentification
Guide, says Richard Tyler. And the tenth point is the most crucial
- a change in planning legislation to enable local authorities to
plan for sustainable (not polarised) communities. Give us the tools
to do the job!
The National HMO Lobby's Ten
Point Plan is attached to this News Release - it points
to ten lines of action, it names six key stakeholders, and arising
from these, it proposes a checklist of 57 varieties of
Universities UK Students
& Communities Living in Harmony?
Breakfast Seminar, House of Commons, 27 June 2006
Report by Maya Fletcher, Nottingham Action Group (for National
The four speakers were (in order of appearance):
Greg Mulholland MP (Leeds NW) who, as the host,
introduced the session and spoke very clearly and strongly about
his experiences as a Leeds Councillor and latterly as an MP
Diana Green (VC Sheffield Hallam, Chair UUK)
whose presentation was disappointing to say the least. She concentrated
on the 'positive' aspects of the UUK report, Studentification:
a guide to opportunities, challenges & practice, talked
a good deal about what wonderful things were being done in Sheffield
by some 400 students who do voluntary work in the community, ignored,
as far as she possibly could, what they are calling the 'challenges'
of studentification, and emphasized the important for the stakeholders
to establish good communication since this (at least as far as I
could gather) was the key to addressing the challenges. Lots of
thank you's to the relevant government departments for funding the
research. Also quite a bit about how many students stay on in Sheffield
after they have completed their degrees.
Dr Darren Smith (Brighton University), author
of Studentification, whose talk kicked off with a description
of his birth and youth in Leeds and recent visits back. I would
guess that the substance of the talk was a variation on the presentation
he made at the Nottingham conference and at the original conference
in January. However, he did emphasize that this report was a guidance
document only and that it should be used as a starting point rather
than as a means and end in itself. In connection with this he did
make a pretty clear plea for more research to take place into the
different aspects of studentification, especially what the perceptions
are of when the 'tipping point' is reached, and also the emotional
and social effects. He also pointed out that his research trips
to Australia and to Canada have shown that studentification is a
global phenomenon rather than just one confined to this country.
He also made some reference to purpose built accommodation and questioned
whether it could be the (sole) solution to the problem. He hinted
that dumping a huge purpose build in a community could have as much
an effect on the community around it (especially the economy?) as
the same number of students would have if they lived across the
community in HMOs.
Baroness Andrews (Minister for Housing) who,
like Darren, started with a tale of her experiences as a student
in Aberystwyth (must have been in the 1960's) with a dragon for
a hall warden and then unpleasant digs. She then went on about her
recent experiences while canvassing in Brighton. Apparently almost
every door she knocked on (in one area?) was a student HMO. She
was overwhelmed by the tales the students told her of their experiences
and the disgusting state of the HMOs and the behaviour of their
landlords. At this point I did wonder whether she would take a step
forward and correlate this density of HMOs with the way in which
the permanent residents might be affected also. However, this didn't
happen. Instead she talked about the positive effects of students,
about the way in which the Housing Act 2004 was going to improve
the situation for them, and how she did not believe that planning
legislation (change of Use Class Order) would be an appropriate
route to explore. She too talked about the need for good communication
and also seemed to hold on to this as the magic wand that is going
to solve everything.
All speakers acknowledged that in this context HMOs are largely
synonymous with student accommodation and there was no attempt to
differentiate between HMOs and student accommodation.
This series of talks took the better part of the time allocated
for the seminar. However, there was an opportunity for attendees
Cllr Dave Trimble (Nottingham CC), who kicked
off at the Nottingham Conference and who happens to be my Ward Councillor
(as well as the executive member with responsibility for housing
and for student affairs), started the ball rolling with a bit of
straight speaking about the lack of legislation and how this is
hamstringing our Council's efforts to restore balance, sustainability,
etc. to the studentified parts of Nottingham. He spoke about the
frustration created by this inability to do anything without constantly
being challenged by landlords and developers and other interested
parties. In other words, he went straight to the heart of things,
ignoring a clear attempt by the universities and government to try
and focus solely on the report and ignore the lack of scope, etc.,
and challenging Baroness Andrew's stance.
Baroness Andrew's response to him was to suggest that he write
to her (which he, our MP and the NAG have already done on several
different occasions) with details. She then waffled on a bit, but
did say something about the fact that as house prices continue to
rise this will mean that landlords and parents buying to let will
no longer want to buy up properties and that this will (somehow)
solve the situation.
John Denham MP (Southampton Itchen) then took
up where Dave Trimble had left off. He supported what Dave had said
and then extended the description of the 'challenges' into the antisocial
behaviour aspects of studentification. One of the issues that clearly
made him angry was the apparent differentiation between behaviour
by students (which was being classified as 'high spirits', 'fun',
etc. and nothing that the police or other authorities needed to
do anything about) and the same behaviour by (local) youths which
was labelled as antisocial behaviour and therefore needed to be
tackled. (This same point has been raised at NAG meetings on a number
of occasions.) He mentioned the sort of behaviour he had in mind
(e.g. urinating in the streets, noise, drunkenness) and which we
are all so familiar with.
The Vice Chancellor from Sheffield Hallam either took it upon
herself to respond to this or was nominated. Either way the thrust
of her response was to say that students were often blamed for this
sort of behaviour when it was actually being carried out by the
indigenous population, i.e. that they were scapegoats. John Denham
responded by pointing out that in his constituency the antisocial
behaviour started at the beginning of the autumn term and largely
disappeared when the students were on vacation. He postulated that
his constituents were capable of telling the difference between
antisocial behaviour generated by students and that generated by
Maya Fletcher (Chair, Nottingham Action Group)
continued where the others had left off. I apologized for the fact
that Richard had not been able to make the seminar and said that
I was now the only resident representative at the meeting. I started
with Baroness Andrew's comments about house prices (doesn't stop
speculators and, in any case, no family is willing to buy into a
neighbourhood with a student house next door), went on to the lack
of legislation and the need for it. I emphasized that it is not
necessarily students per se who are the problem but the concentrations
of students living in HMOs in our neighbourhoods and the transient
nature of that occupation. I explained about the stress and unhappiness
being caused by this destruction of our neighbourhoods, by the noise,
the mess, the attitude of students and landlords (the 'this is a
student area and if you don't like it, you can always realize the
equity in your property and move on' syndrome). And so on. Not what
Richard would have said, but all I could manage after little sleep
the night before and in such august company.
Baroness Andrew responded by going on about the need to communicate
effectively and the fact that legislation was not the way forward.
Apparently it can cause all sorts of unexpected side-effects!
Alan Simpson MP (Nottingham South) who is my
constituency MP then took up the challenge. He concentrated on the
fact that HMOs are businesses but are not treated as any other business
would be, i.e. lack of legislation and taxation. He said that the
fact that the Housing Act 2004 had limited mandatory licensing to
3 storeys and 5 tenants meant that the Act would have a very limited
effect on the majority of student HMOs in Nottingham, that landlords
would be likely to play the numbers game and avoid licensing. He
also took up something that Dave Trimble had mentioned about the
way in which landlords rejig family homes to accommodate the maximum
number of tenants and that this results in a property which will
need many thousands spent on it before it becomes attractive for
occupation by families.
Baroness Andrew mentioned the provisions for secondary licensing.
Rosie Cooper MP (W Lancs) then recounted her
experiences and those of her constituents and the way in which the
character of Ormskirk was being destroyed by a student HMO invasion.
Veronica King (VP Welfare NUS) finished off with
a speech about how unfair the report was to students and how students
are misrepresented, etc. and how much good they do in the community
and all the voluntary work they undertake.
I gather the seminar was surprisingly well attended (over 60 people
with a fair number of MPs present as well as vice-chancellors and
other university representatives).
Greg Muholland told me he had written to all MPs who he felt would
be interested in the subject and I could see that the idea of a
parliamentary lobby found favour with him. Alan Simpson was also
supportive. However, I do wonder whether, in the end, it is going
to be up to us, as constituents, to try and bring the MPs together.
It was also suggested to Dave Trimble and myself that there should
be some way in which councillors in affected wards across the country
could be brought together.
It seems as if the National HMO Lobby's example could provide
the lead. Again something I feel we may need to help catalyze.
My final recollection of the seminar is that the Vice-chancellor
of the University of Ulster stopped me and told me that I had to
remember, and take comfort from, the fact that I am not alone ...!
National HMO Lobby