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National HMO Lobby



Department for Communities & Local Government
HMOs Seminar
Eland House, 9 April 2008

On 9 April 2008 in London, the Department for Communities & Local Government (CLG) held a 'HMOs Seminar'. This Seminar was the final phase of the preliminaries to a HMO Review (announced the same day by the Housing Minister) and a consultation on the Use Classes Order (UCO). CLG has commissioned a research project by the consultancy ECOTEC - first they interviewed several interested parties (including the National HMO Lobby); then they held a series of Focus Groups in half-a-dozen towns (including Leeds, Loughborough, Nottingham, Southampton); and finally, they contributed their findings to the Seminar.

CLG invited Richard Tyler (for the National HMO Lobby) and Maya Fletcher (Nottingham) and Jerry Gillen (Southampton), as well as representatives from local authorities (including Andrew Crates, Mike Cole, Dave Hankin, Cllr Dave Trimble), from universities (including Alison Barlow), from Unipol, from Shelter, from landlord associations, and from CLG itself (both Housing and Planning sections) (also NUS), 35 people altogether. The Lobby tabled a paper.

The day was facilitated by independent consultant Sue Goodman, and introduced by Andrew Lynch (CLG). After welcomes and introductions, ECOTEC presented the current findings from their research - the research process (as above), the impacts of HMOs (especially students), mechanisms for management (planning and other), good practice (especially Leeds, Nottingham, Loughborough), the Northern Ireland experience (developments, issues), wider applications (transferable practices), barriers (inadequate resources, powers, etc), planning and non-planning approaches (especially the UCO). Considerable discussion followed, to which Lobby representatives made forceful contributions.

After lunch, the Seminar split into four groups. Two of these (B & C) were not helpful - they were concerned with what students/residents could do, and what landlords/universities could do - so inevitably they could really only consider symptoms, not root causes. Group A considered migrant worker housing - which was valuable in emphasising that the issue is HMOs and transience (not just students). Fortunately, Group D considered what local authorities could do - so participants were able to address real issues (thanks to Jerry, Dave T, Andrew and Alison for ensuring that this happened).

The Groups reported back to a final plenary session - in which the Seminar concentrated on Group D's recommendations. It emerged that CLG is prepared to amend the UCO, if not quite as the Lobby proposed [in subsequent conversation, we found they may not adopt exactly the Housing Act definition, and LAs may have to seek a Direction to control HMOs]. But we're moving in the right direction at last!

Now ECOTEC intend to produce a draft report by the end of April, and then a final report early in May. Then CLG will move towards a formal, public Consultation Paper on the UCO.

Dr Richard Tyler, National HMO Lobby


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