If the National HMO Lobby resists concentrations of HMOs, this
is because of our concern for the sustainability of our communities.
(Indeed, sustainability is in the title of some of our members
- Sustainable Communities [Scotland],
Swansea Sustainable Community Initiative.) Concentrations of HMOs
present a unique threat to these communities. They tend not only
to have a detrimental impact on the character and amenity of a
neighbourhood - they also undermine the very pre-requisite for
a sustainable community, which is a
balanced and stable population. By their very nature, concentrations
of HMOs distort the population balance and introduce a transient
population. (For a discussion of the idea of community, see 'Compehending
The Lobby therefore welcomes the government's professed commitment
to sustainable communities. 'Creating sustainable communities'
was adopted as its motto when the Office
of the Deputy Prime Minister was established in 2002. Since
then, the concept of sustainable community has been explored
by ODPM. Sustainable Communities: building for the future
was published in February 2003. In February 2004, a consultation
was undertaken on Planning Policy Statement 1, Creating Sustainable
Communities, followed in April by the Egan Review Skills
for Sustainable Communities. Leeds HMO Lobby responded
to both of these. (PPS1 has since been published as Delivering
Sustainable Development, 2005.) 'Sustainable Communities'
is currently defined in Appendix 1 of Sustainable Communities:
People, Places & Prosperity (31 January 2005), which
is reproduced on the ODPM website.
The Lobby has criticised this definition in Students,
Communities & Sustainability.
Upon her appointment in May 2005 (following the General Election),
the National HMO Lobby wrote to the new
Minister for Housing & Planning, Yvette Cooper. Then in July,
Leeds HMO Lobby wrote to David Miliband,
Minister for Communities & Local Government, on his speech
to the Together We Can Conference. In September, David
Miliband visited Leeds for a Core Cities summit, and Leeds HMO
Lobby took the opportunity to draw local issues
to his attention.
In September 2006, the Lobby responded to the DCLG's discussion
paper From Decent
Homes to Sustainable Communities. In December 2006, Any
Reed MP asked a question in the House of Commons about sustainable
communities in areas of high density student housing.
In 2012, the National Planning Policy Framework superseded PPS1:
at paragraph 50, the NPPF states, "To ... create sustainable,
inclusive and mixed communities, local planning authorities should
plan for a mix of housing." On 24 July 2012, DEFRA launched
Consultation on Sustainable Development Indicators, one
of which concerned Social Capital: "in terms of its importance
for sustainable development, social capital is essential for sustainable
communities and a strong and cohesive society underpins our economic
development and our current and long term wellbeing."
Below may be found -
Our New Minister, representation
to Minister Yvette Cooper, 10 May 2005
Building a Modern Social Contract,
represemntation to Minister David Miliband, 1 July 2005
Leeds Summit, representation to
Minister David Miliband, 15 September 2005
and Re: Leeds Summit, correspondence with David.McKinlay@odpm.gsi.gov.uk,
18 November 2005
Date: 10 May 2005
From: National HMO Lobby
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, FAO Yvette Cooper
I am writing on behalf of the National HMO Lobby, first of all
to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister for Housing
& Planning, and to wish you well in your new post.
Secondly, I write to introduce the National HMO Lobby. I was pleased
to meet Keith Hill a year ago, in my capacity as Co-ordinator of
the Lobby - I hope in due course I shall have the opportunity to
meet you also. The Lobby is an association of over thirty community
groups throughout the UK, who are concerned about the detrimental
impact of concentrations of HMOs on the sustainability of their
communities. Jointly and severally, we have been campaigning for
some five years for action to be taken. Information on the Lobby
and on its concerns and activities is on our website.
Thirdly, I would just like to identify three issues of particular
# HMOs and HE: the chief cause of concentrations
of HMOs is currently the expansion of HE. No provision has been
made for the accommodation of increased student numbers, so the
lack has been made up by the private rented sector - hence, concentrations
of shared student houses, now defined as HMOs. Mr Hill acknowledged
this as a key issue, and initiated a project to research the problems
and recommend solutions. Dr Darren Smith is due shortly to report.
We look forward to the ODPM encouraging both local authorities and
universities to act swiftly on his recommendations.
# HMOs and Licensing: one of the main contributions
of the last government to tackling the problem was the Housing Act,
which introduced licensing of HMOs. We are pleased that larger HMOs
are subject to mandatory licensing, though disappointed that licensing
was not required of all HMOs (as it is in Scotland). We are urging
local authorities to introduce additional HMO licensing where HMOs
are concentrated (as in areas of 'studentification'). We hope ODPM
will consider such applications favourably and speedily.
# HMOs and Planning: however, HMOs in concentration
are of course primarily a planning issue. Local authorities can
act only within the powers they have available. All concerned are
agreed that the single most useful measure that the government could
take to address the problems arising from HMO concentrations would
be to introduce planning controls on HMOs - as has been done in
Northern Ireland. We were very disappointed that the recent amendment
of the Use Classes Order omitted to do so. We urge you to give this
matter further and urgent consideration.
We all want our communities to be sustainable. But when HMOs exceed
(say) 10% of households, and thereby 20% of the population (as HMOs
are disproportionately crowded) - then communities lose balance.
The transient population increases, generating social, environmental
and economic problems - and the resident population, which normally
tackles such problems, declines.
We trust that in pursuit of creating sustainable communities,
you will take measures actively to support our beleagured communities.
Best wishes, Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National HMO Lobby
The Lobby also wrote in similar vein to David Miliband, the new
Minister of Communities & Local Government. No reply was received
Building a Modern Social Contract
Date: 01 July 2005
From: Leeds HMO Lobby
Dear Mr Miliband
In the spirit of Together We Can, I am writing in response
to your speech on 'Building a Modern Social Contract' at the launch
of the new action plan. I write on behalf of Leeds HMO Lobby to
welcome your speech warmly.
Leeds HMO Lobby is an association of community associations working
to do exactly what you are advocating, building the sustainability
of our communities (do visit our website).
As you do in the fifth point in your speech, we emphasise the importance
of the community sector. And we agree wholeheartedly with your quote
from Jane Jacobs. It's the community which keeps a neighbourhood
clean and quiet and safe. If the state has to intervene, it's because
the community has failed.
Regrettably, this is the case in the communities in & around
Headingley in Leeds. And regrettably too, the failure is actually
a direct consequence of government policy. I notice that one department
in particular was missing from the Together We Can launch,
and that was DfES. It is the enormous recent expansion of HE which
is the source of our problems. We fully support access to HE for
all those who can benefit. But an enormous price is being paid,
not only in Leeds, but in most university towns in the UK (see the
National HMO Lobby). The huge influx of
students is weakening the sustainability of communities. For understandable
reasons, students like to congregate together. But this means that
communities are overwhelmed by a population which is young (and
inexperienced in social contracts) and which is continually changing.
In Headingley for instance, 61% of the population (students) changes
This of course does untold damage to the social networks which
Jane Jacobs refers to. We have been working very hard to repair
this damage. Leeds City Council has set up a Student Housing Project
Group. And I am sure you will be pleased to hear that local residents
are in the process of setting up a Headingley Development Trust,
just like Turkshead in Wapping.
But there is a good deal the government, and especially ODPM, can
do to help us. We are pleased that ODPM initiated Universities UK's
research project into students and communities (even the universities
recognise there is a problem). We hope you will encourage local
authorities to follow the Guidance due to be published in October.
We are pleased too that HMO licensing will help to curtail the
worst abuses inflicted on communities by the landlords of student
HMOs. We hope ODPM will be sympathetic to university towns who seek
additional HMO licensing to help manage their student colonies.
But more than anything, local authorities need powers to manage
the market forces which have created these colonies. We were very
disappointed that the recent revision of the Use Classes Order did
not include any new requirement for planning permission for HMOs
(unlike the example set by Northern Ireland). It is this loophole
in planning legislation which leaves thriving communities vulnerable
to devastation by unrestricted growth of HMOs. In the interest of
restoring the social contract in our beleagured communities, we
do exhort you to urge your colleague, the Planning Minister, to
revisit this legislation.
We hope that together we can (re)build a Modern Social
Best wishes, (Dr) Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, Leeds HMO Lobby
No reply was received.
From: Leeds HMO Lobby
Date: 15 September 2005
Dear Mr Miliband
I was pleased to meet you at the Core Cities summit in Leeds on
Tuesday, 13 September. You will remember that I raised an issue
of concern to the grass-roots community in & around Headingley
(actually affecting three constituencies in Leeds). I'm writing
so that you have the main points on paper (or at least, on file).
The issue is the profound destabilisation of the communities in
our area, as a result of their invasion by the private rented sector,
especially HMOs. Ironically, this is as a result of the expansion
of HE (which you remarked on in your interview with the Yorkshire
Evening Post). The effect is that the burglary rate is the
highest in the city, the squalor is the worst, and we have the only
Cumulative Impact Policy for alcohol licensing outside the city
centre. All this is the result of the substitution of a stable local
community by a transient HMO population - HMO occupants now outnumber
residents. In consequence, Headingley's contribution to the flourishing
of Leeds is disabled.
The community does what it can. The 'resident rump' is very active.
We are setting up the Headingley Development Trust, as you know.
We have produced a 'Headingley Renaissance' strategy. And we are
preparing Neighbourhood Design Statements.
The Council is supportive. An Area of Student Housing Restraint
is proposed for the Revised UDP. We have successfully applied to
ODPM for control of Letting Boards. We hope to apply also for Additional
But Government could also help. Community and Council are struggling
with one hand tied behind our backs. There is no means of controlling
the proliferation of HMOs, the root cause of our problems. What
we request is amendment of the Use Classes Order, such that HMOs
are realistically defined (as they are in the Housing Act) and that
they count as change-of-use, and therefore require planning permission
(as in Northern Ireland's Use Classes Order).
As you suggested, I spoke to David Prout, Director of Local Government
Policy, who said that our proposal had been "considered and
rejected." Well, we know it has been rejected, because
it was excluded from the amended UCO earlier this year. But we would
dispute that it has been considered. The report on which
the amendments were based was mainly concerned with other issues,
and gave no serious consideration to problems arising from HMOs.
Since then, these have been recognised by ODPM, and a report is
in preparation by Universities UK on the problems caused for local
communities by student housing.
Alan Simpson MP has recently written to you on this matter (which
affects nearly all the Core Cities), and received a reply from Baroness
Andrews, which was not all satisfactory. Given your interest in
communities, we do urge you not only to consider ways of regenerating
failing communities, but also to take action which will enable thriving
communities to resist a collapse into unsustainability.
Best wishes, Dr Richard Tyler
PS I attended the summit as representative of Greg Mulholland,
MP for Leeds NW. He asked me to attend as I am Co-ordinator of Leeds
HMO Lobby, a coalition of local community groups campaigning on
this issue, with members in Leeds Central, NW and West. I also co-ordinate
the National HMO Lobby, a national alliance of groups with the same
concerns. Our website is at http://hmolobby.org.uk/index.htm
A reply in David Miliband's name was received, but it merely reiterated
the provisions of the current Use Classes Order. Leeds HMO Lobby
pointed this out, and has received a second response - to which
we sent the following reply:
From: Leeds HMO Lobby
Date: 18 November 2005
Dear Mr McKinlay
Thank you for forwarding the letter from David Miliband dated 15
November. I appreciate receiving a second response to my email of
15 September [above].
However, it is not a little frustrating that the Minister's second
letter misses the point we wished to raise. First of all, our primary
concern is not burglary rates or alcohol licensing (which are outside
ODPM's remit) - but with the origins of these problems, concentrations
of HMOs. Nor is our primary concern with student numbers or student
housing - though these are the main drivers of concentrations of
No, our main concern is with concentrations of HMOs themselves.
And our original request was "amendment of the Use Classes
Order, such that HMOs are realistically defined (as they are in
the Housing Act) and that they count as change-of-use, and therefore
require planning permission (as in Northern Ireland's Use Classes
This request is not peculiar to Leeds. Far from 'creating sustainable
communities', concentrations of HMOs are in fact destroying the
sustainability of communities around the country. This has been
recognised as a national issue, for instance in ODPM's own commissioning
of research, shortly to be published in Universities UK's Students
& Communities Guide. And it is engaging local authorities
around the UK, a dozen of which have adopted, or are consulting
on, planning policies to control concentrations of HMOs. But these
dozen towns are unanimous that their efforts are emasculated by
the inadequacy of current planning legislation.
(1) Change of use: it is incontrovertible that HMOs are a quite
distinctive use of property. Their usage has four distinctive features.
(a) The occupancy of HMOs is intensive, twice that of an
ordinary dwelling house. (b) The occupants of HMOs are
predominantly from one narrow age range, young adults (students,
professionals, claimants). (c) The occupiers of HMOs, by
the very fact of multiple occupation, lack the internal government
of a single household. (d) The occupation of HMOs is short-term.
Collectively, the impact of the use of a property changes radically
if it is converted to HMO. These features differentiate HMOs much
further from most properties within Use Class C3 (family homes)
than other residential uses, like hotels or care homes - which are
in different Use Classes.
(2) Definition: there is no difficulty in defining HMOs, in distinguishing
them (whether their occupants are students or professionals or claimants)
from "a family of six (with four teenagers)". The Housing
Act 2004 does so without difficulty, and so does equivalent HMO
Licensing legislation in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
(3) Permission: there is no problem in incorporating this definition
into planning legislation, by amendment of the Use Classes Order
- as has been demonstrated by the recent amendment of the UCO in
Northern Ireland. In this respect, far from reducing the burden
on local authorities, the current UCO in fact increases those burdens.
To my mind, none of these points have been satisfactorily addressed
in either letter from the Minister. The second letter acknowledges
that "planning regulations allow a dwelling house to be used
as small scale student [or other] accommodation and would not need
planning permission, provided that there were six students [or others]
or less and living as a single household." In fact, landlords
have successfully argued at appeal that larger numbers of students
(or others) are also single households. The effect of this is that
there are no planning controls on HMOs - therefore no means of controlling
concentrations - therefore no means of resisting the destruction
of sustainable communities.
If ODPM really wishes to sustain communities, then effective
national planning legislation, as we have requested, is essential.
Yours sincerely, Dr Richard Tyler, Leeds HMO Lobby (and also, National
On 21 November, David McKinlay (Customer Liaison Unit, ODPM) replied
as follows: 'Dear Dr Tyler, Thank you for your further email dated
18 November. As David Miliband has explained in his previous correspondence,
we do not think it is appropriate to amend the UCO with regard to
HMOs. I appreciate that this is not the response you were hoping
for, but there is nothing further we feel we can add.'
National HMO Lobby