Leeds HMO Lobby


Leeds HMO Lobby

What is a HMO?

The Lobby

Local Action
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Studentification in Leeds

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Use Classes Order
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Students & Community

National HMO Lobby

Leeds HMO Lobby



Students & the Community in Leeds

Response to Questionnaire from Dr Darren Smith, February 2005


2 Community’s Concerns
· Concern about the numbers of students in certain streets in Headingley was first raised twenty years ago in the late ‘80s (the Council responded with action on HMOs: see 26D).
· A decade later, individual groups voiced their concerns: in 1999, Headingley Against Landlordism was founded (which published a survey of residents’ views), and South Headingley Community Association held a public meeting on the issue.
· In 2000, local groups joined forces to form Leeds HMO Lobby, to campaign locally and nationally for action on concentrations of HMOs, especially student houses.

2A Scale of Problem
· In 1991, students constituted c20% of the population of Headingley Ward. By 2001, this has risen to 61%.
· In 2001, the area with a student population of 25% or more extended NW from the universities, for nearly two miles, in a band over a mile wide (‘Two square miles of housing hell’, as it was christened by the Guardian); the area with a lower proportion extends much further.
· Student penetration (as the Council calls it) was deepest in South Headingley (or Hyde Park): an area of a quarter square mile, comprising 72 streets, houses 10,000 people – two-thirds of whom are students.
· Currently there over 40,000 students at the two universities, most in & around Headingley, and three-quarters in the private rented sector (PRS).

5 Meaning of Studentification
· Studentification is defined by the Lobby as ‘the substitution of a local community by a student community.’
· Studentification therefore means primarily demographic imbalance (61% students in Headingley Ward, and only 7% children and 8% older people), and arising from that, a whole range of problems, social, environmental, economic, etc (see below).
· To those who experience it, studentification also means alienation (‘like living on a university campus’), including oppression and isolation, revulsion from the condition of the locality, anger at the perpetrators, and despair at the neglect by government.

7 Economic Impacts
From a balanced economy to a resort economy
All suburban economies have undergone change of late. But in & around Headingley, this is demonstrably the result of studentification. The area has developed the economic characteristics of two quite different sorts of resort, rural and coastal.
· Like rural resorts, subject to demand for holiday-homes, Headingley has suffered property price inflation, due to demand for second-homes for students (in 1995-2001, house prices in Leeds 6 rose half as fast again as in Leeds as a whole).
· Like coastal resorts subject to tourist demands, the Headingley economy has responded with more, larger, longer-opening pubs, with huge numbers of take-aways (13 in Headingley Centre alone), and with a proliferation of letting agencies (40 where once there were 8).
· Like all resorts, the economy is seasonal (though a mirror-image of the usual holiday seasons), which has been fatal for many small shops. These have also been hit by high rents, and by conversion to accommodation.
· Correspondingly, employment too is seasonal, and as in resorts, much is part-time. Overall, employment in the area is half the city level.
· Knock-on costs are high. Sheer pressure on resources means high service costs, including policing, cleansing, highways, planning, environmental health, and so on. And insecurity (see 9) means high insurance premiums, for property, contents, vehicles.

9 Social Impacts
From social cohesion to social fragmentation

Headingley used to be home to a diverse but balanced and coherent population: it comprised the chattering classes (from the universities) and working-class residents, it comprised students and young professionals, and it included various other ethnic groups (especially Asian). There was a normal age profile, sustaining a range of institutions (like schools) and associations.
· But studentification has meant an exodus: emigration is pushed by loss of amenity, and pulled by the lure of high house prices; immigration is deterred by exactly the same factors.
· Services have been lost, especially schools – necessary not only to attract new families, but also to establish social networks. Two or the three primaries recently closed in Leeds were in Headingley, and more are anticipated
· Absenteeism has become dominant: most properties (60%) are no longer owned by residents but by absentee landlords; and most residents (tenants) are absent for a third of the year.
· The transient population, and consequent loss of social networks, leads to isolation, especially of the elderly. Two-thirds of students don’t know their neighbours (Unipol survey, 2002).
· Low-level antisocial behaviour is endemic (during term-time) – noise (especially at night), minor vandalism, evacuation by pubbers and clubbers (vomit, urine, faeces).
· Crime levels are high, especially burglary – worst not only in the city, but also in 2001 in the country (1 in 10 households) (soft targets, rich pickings).

11 Cultural Impacts
From multicultural diversity to monocultural monotony
The former social diversity sustained a corresponding cultural diversity. Some still survives (Headingley is home to a mosque and a temple, and to Maumoniat, a renowned international supermarket, and annual festivals are staged, in Kirkstall, on Woodhouse Moor, and in Central Headingley). But the demographic imbalance has led to a cultural monopoly.
· The student presence is often alleged to bring ‘vibrancy’ to the area, but this seems little more than a euphemism for noise. Supposedly, students have kept open three suburban cinemas – but one has just closed, and another is under threat.
· On the one hand, the resort economy sustains a ‘resort culture’. The centre of Headingley has become the focus of a pub culture; based on the student market, this now attracts youth from all over Leeds. The clientele of the local pubs is no longer local, and no longer socially mixed. One local pub had a bowling green – but this is now a beer-garden. A feature of this culture is the ‘Otley Run’, basically a pub-crawl along the Otley Road (the main artery through Headingley). The ‘night-time economy’ alienates residents from central Headingley on Friday and Saturday nights; and on major sporting occasions (especially international football), the pub clientele has several times spilled out during the day, and brought traffic to a complete standstill.
· On the other hand, there is an increased disengagement from public culture. Students play no part in local community associations. And they play no part in public debate: Headingley Ward has the lowest electoral turnout in the city.
· Meanwhile, the existing community is increasingly under threat. There are few older active people to keep alive the area’s past history. There are fewer activists to sustain the present community. And there are only a third of the usual number of school children – who are the community’s future.

13 Physical Impacts
From pride to dereliction
Headingley has a wonderful architectural heritage – Victorian mansions and Victorian terraces, classic inter-war suburbs, including fine art deco semis, and so on. But all alike are subject to degradation. Such is the demand that no property is immune from conversion to student accommodation, not only mansions, semis and terraces, but also shops, offices and even outhouses and garages!
· Good quality buildings are vandalised by poor quality dormer additions, basement conversions, and outward extensions (in 2000, enforcement cases were five times the city norm).
· The fabric of the buildings is left to deteriorate, or patched up by cowboy builders.
· Curtilages (gardens, yards), once the pride of their owners, are left to run wild, or razed to the ground, or concreted over. Inconvenient trees are lopped or felled.

15 Environmental Impacts
From conservation to blight
Headingley was once as clean as any other suburb in Leeds. But by 2003 it had become the filthiest in the city, such that a new environmental initiative, Headingley Streetscene, was introduced.
· The streets have become squalid, through lack of care. Litter and large-scale waste are strewn over streets and curtilages. Waste management is incompetent: rubbish bins are misused and abused; recycling of waste has virtually collapsed.
· The streets also suffer from deliberate abuse, or street-blight. Throughout the year, but especially in the house-hunting season, they are disfigured by landlords’ letting boards. The incidence of burglary has led to the installation of security grilles over doors and windows. The student audience has attracted ubiquitous flyposting and discarded flyers. The general air of neglect encourages graffiti.

· Traffic impacts on the environment. The average car per household in Leeds is 0.7, but student houses are almost double at 1.2. The start of each academic year is heralded by Gridlock Sunday, as students return, and the streets remain congested during term-time. Cleansing and maintenance are obstructed. Road surfaces (and markings) suffer erosion, especially as on-street parking frequently reduces roads to single-lane traffic. This in turn delays public transport (and presents a potential hazard to emergency services). On-street parking is frequently on-pavement – which obstructs pavements for pedestrians, and breaks down kerbs and verges.

TACKLING THE EFFECTS: Responses to the Impacts

17 HEI Response
Leeds is host to two universities, the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University, on three campuses, all in the north-west segment of the city. It is this geographical focus which has generated the demographic problems, which in turn have led to the economic, social, cultural, physical and environmental impacts of the student population.
· For long, both universities denied any problems (indeed, the new Vice Chancellor of Leeds Met still does).
· Until recently, neither university responded to the community’s concerns.
· In 2000, the University of Leeds adopted a Community Strategy. The University appointed a Community Liaison Officer (initially, this was funded jointly by the two universities and the Council; it is now funded solely by Leeds University). Among other things the Officer maintains a Neighbourhood Helpline, and does a good job representing the University in the community. The University commissioned a Report on Processes of Studentification in Leeds, published in 2002.
· The University’s Community Strategy is currently under review.

19 Local Authority Response
Leeds City Council’s responses to the community’s concerns about the impacts of the student population now take place largely under the auspices of the Shared Housing Action Plan (SHAP) which is overseen by the Student Housing Project Group (see 26D).
· Economic impacts: On the whole, the Council has been unable to respond to these. However, the Council’s new Licensing Policy includes a Cumulative Impact Policy for Headingley Centre, which prohibits any increase in capacity or opening hours of pubs.
· Social impacts: The Council has a city-wide Noise Nuisance line. Leeds Landlord Accreditation Scheme has introduced a Tenant Code, on neighbourly behaviour. Leeds Community Safety has proposed alleygating in South Headingley, where the incidence of burglary is worst – but this is opposed by the local community. (For the benefit of students, the police run a Walksafe Scheme at the beginning of each academic year, and they liaise with the HEIs over student safety.)
· Cultural impacts: No response.
· Physical impacts: The Area Committee has appointed a dedicated Community Planning Officer to advise the community on development control.
· Environmental impacts: Headingley Streetscene was introduced to tackle street squalor: household waste, recycling, large waste & street cleaning are supposed to be integrated; but the Scheme is only partly successful. Flyposting is curtailed by the provision of dedicated drums. The Council has applied to ODPM for powers to control letting boards. Residents parking permits have been introduced in some areas.
· Also, the Council publishes a guide to Living in the Community.

21 MP’s Response
Most of the studentified area lies within the constituency of Leeds NW (Harold Best); some parts also lie within Leeds West (John Battle) and Leeds Central (Hilary Benn).
· H Best’s Early Day Motion on HMOs in 2000 pioneered action in Parliament.
· H Best was instrumental in establishing Leeds HMO Lobby in 2000.
· H Best invited two Ministers for Housing, Planning & Regeneration to Leeds NW, N Raynsford in 2001, and Lord Falconer in 2002.
· H Best has also supported residents through case work.
· J Battle and H Benn have also been supportive.

17A Student Response
Of course, the students in the locality generate the economic, social, cultural, physical and environmental impacts which cause the concern. The majority are oblivious, a minority exacerbate the situation (since the total is so large, this minority is still very numerous). However, some students do attempt to respond to the concerns.
· The student unions of the two universities have jointly established the LS6 Project, whose Mission Statement says “LS6 is suffering many of the problems associated with a large, transient student population. We want to improve life in LS6 for all its residents. By increasing participation in community action projects, we aim to improve the environment, reduce crime and build positive community relations.” The Project has been concerned with staging a Winter Festival and a bargain hunt bring-&-buy, with recycling and graffiti, among other things.
· The student unions of both universities run a range of volunteering activities, some of which contribute to Headingley, such as visiting the elderly or working with schools (like Royal Park Primary School, until it closed).
Students do not engage with long-term campaigns, like licensing, letting boards, parking, etc., they concentrate on short-term objectives. None of the students’ volunteering actually addresses the root causes of the impacts which cause concern; and most in Headingley simply ameliorate those impacts.

17B PRS Response
The PRS in Leeds comprises Unipol (the student housing charity), Leeds Property Association (representing local landlords) and sundry national property developers (like UNITE).
· The sector itself generates many of the impacts which cause concern: inflated property prices, proliferating letting agencies, absentee owners, conversion of properties, neglect of buildings, vandalising of gardens, building waste, discarded furniture, letting boards, security grilles
· The LPA has opposed action on some of these (e.g. letting boards).
Some responsible landlords have supported some measures (not all of which are very effective).
· Unipol operates a Code of Standards, which includes garden maintenance. Unipol publishes advice on being a good neighbour.
· Many landlords belong to Unipol’s Code and/or the Council’s Leeds Landlords Accreditation Scheme.
· LPA is introducing a Man-with-a-Van Scheme for garden maintenance.

17C Community Response
Response by all parties to the impacts of students has largely been driven by the local community. We doubt that the Council would have introduced the Shared Housing Action Plan nor that the University would have a Community Strategy without agitation by the local community. Thirty Policy Papers are published on Leeds HMO Lobby’s website.
· Economic impacts: The Council’s Cumulative Impacts Policy on pub licensing was a response to intense lobbying by the community. The local Area Committee established the Central Headingley Strategy Group at the instigation of the Lobby, and this has produced an Action Plan for the commercial centre. Residents are currently exploring the potential of community ownership of local assets (see the paper Kept in the Community).
· Social impacts: The Lobby has produced a Community Code, which is supposed to be promoted by the Council, the universities and the students. The Lobby also initiated the Tenant Code in the Leeds Landlord Accreditation Scheme. The community campaigned (unsuccessfully) against school closures.
· Cultural impacts: The Lobby has proposed Leeds Left Bank as a focus for regeneration in Headingley. Community groups stage a series of local festivals each summer, including Kirkstall Festival, Unity Day and Celebrate Headingley.
· Physical impacts: Residents campaign as far as possible against inappropriate development.
· Environmental impact: Residents have campaigned for improved cleansing (Headingley Streetscene) and for parking controls.
· The community has also promoted more general initiatives. The community instigated and conducted an Amenity Audit (in preparation for the Public Inquiry on ASHORE: see 26D). The community initiated the Community & HE Forum (CHEF). The community maintains a website (Heal Headingley), a quarterly newsletter (Headway, circulation 2000), and an activist email list.

23 Student Benefits
· In proportion, a student population can benefit a locality, simply by adding to its diversity. This diversity can be manifest in economic, social and cultural terms.
· By the same token, however, disproportionate numbers of students are detrimental to a locality – because imbalance reduces diversity. At the same time, imbalance generates all the economic, social, cultural, physical and environmental impacts detailed above.

TACKLING THE CAUSES: Accommodation Strategies

22 HEI Strategy
Leeds has two universities. The University of Leeds published a Housing Strategy in 2004. Leeds Metropolitan University has no official accommodation strategy (one is in preparation). Leeds also hosts a number of other HEIs, especially Trinity & All Saints College.

24 HEI Strategy & Students
Leeds University’s Housing Strategy does not meet the needs of students – simply because it leaves two-thirds of them to find accommodation in the PRS.

26 HEI Strategy & Community
· Leeds University’s Housing Strategy commits the University to “reduce or slow down the growth of students seeking private rented accommodation in the particularly affected communities of Headingley and surrounding areas.”
· The University broadly supports ASHORE (26D), it has undertaken to develop no new student housing in the Area, and is involved in developments elsewhere.
· However, the University’s support for ASHORE is equivocal (it has not agreed not to expand existing provision).
· The University still leaves two-thirds of its students to find accommodation in the PRS. And the Strategy has nothing at all to say about this provision.
· Meanwhile, Leeds Met plans a new hall of residence in the heart of Headingley.

28 Development of Strategy
· Leeds University began development of its Housing Strategy in 2003 as a result of pressure from the community and the Council. (But in that year it was still rebuilding and expanding its James Baillie residence.)
· Leeds Met has been shamed into following suit.
· Leeds University is now revising its Strategy in response to Leeds HMO Lobby’s criticism of its lack of attention to the PRS.

29 Revisions to Strategy
· Leeds University’s policy was new (apparently the first in the country): its chief significance was its recognition of a need for a strategy.
· We regret that Leeds Met has still not met that need.

31b Consultation
It depends what you mean by consultation ...
· Leeds University’s first draft was abandoned, due to dismissive criticism by the community.
· A subsequent draft Strategy was outlined to interested parties, and amended in the light of comments.
· The published Strategy failed to address PRS provision at all.

26A Student Strategy
Students do not have an ‘official Accommodation Strategy’, but they frequently assert their right to live where they please. They have used their superior (collective) purchasing power to impose that privilege, at the expense of local residents.
· Students’ individual and collective accommodation strategies are in conflict with the interests of the local community. And their success in imposing them lies behind the economic, social, cultural, physical and environmental impacts of the student population.
· Recently, awareness has begun to glimmer. Last year, Leeds University Union’s Housing Guide suggested that students could benefit by looking outside the Headingley area. This year, the Guide specifically suggests South Leeds.
· Otherwise, students have largely remained oblivious to the development of Accommodation Strategies in Leeds. ASHORE has never been reported in Leeds Student, and students made no representations on the proposal.

31Ab Consultation
· Students did not consult with the local community. But they must be well aware of the community’s views. And last year, the Lobby took the initiative in expressing these views in a meeting with LUU.
· Lack of consultation arises partly from the very different agendas of students and residents, and partly from the Groundhog Effect (the fact that every year, student/community relations have to start again from scratch).

26B PRS Strategy
The PRS in Leeds comprises Unipol (the student housing charity), Leeds Property Association (representing local landlords) and sundry national property developers (like UNITE). The Accommodation Strategy of the PRS is to make as much money as possible, by providing students with what they want.
· The PRS’s interest is therefore entirely in conflict with the interest of the local community.
· Unipol broadly supported the Council’s ASHORE proposal. It has developed provision outside ASHORE (at Mill Street). And it organised a conference on Students, Housing & Community in 2004 in Leeds. But Unipol’s information material still advertises Headingley as ‘the main student area’.
· Leeds Property Association opposed ASHORE.
· Developers (UNITE) supported ASHORE, and have developed provision outside the Area (which may be due to the lack of commercial opportunities within the Area).

31Bb Consultation
· Some local landlords are responsible, but on the whole, relations between LPA and the community are poor (to say the least).
· Unipol however is supportive of the aspirations of the local community, and actively sought to improve ASHORE.

26C Community Strategy
An effective Accommodation Strategy for students in Leeds has been the objective of Leeds HMO Lobby since its inception.
· The Lobby’s first Policy Paper (in 2000) was an outline Student Accommodation Strategy.
· In 2001, the Lobby campaigned for a HMO Registration Scheme (as provided by the Housing Act 1996).
· In 2002, the Lobby published its Grand Strategy, comprising (1) reorientation of student housing elsewhere in Leeds, (2) resistance to more PRS in Headingley, and (3) revival of balance in Headingley.
· In 2002 also, the Lobby advocated greater Development Control in Headingley, and a policy of Student Settlements elsewhere in the city (both subsequently taken up in ASHORE).
· In 2003 and again in 2004, the Lobby met the leadership of both universities, and of successive administrations on Leeds City Council.
· In 2003, the Lobby responded to Leeds University’s Housing Strategy and to the Council’s Accommodation Strategy as proposed in the Leeds UDP Review (specifically ASHORE).
· In 2004, the Lobby continued its critique of the University’s and the Council’s strategies. In addition, the Lobby proposed (1) increased control mechanisms in Headingley (Diversity Zones), (2) guidance to students on accommodation elsewhere(Students in the City), and (3) measures to capitalise on HMO licensing, introduced by the new Housing Act, especially additional licensing (Stemming the Tide).

26D Local Authority Strategy
Leeds City Council has developed an official Accommodation Strategy for students, in support of the interests of the local community, in several stages (and with varied success).
· In 1987, two small HMO Priority Areas were established, to contain the spread of HMOs (and a Registration Scheme followed in one of these). But these were ineffective, largely due to inadequate policing.
· In 2000, the Council established a HMO Working Group, to which all interested parties were invited. Issues were (hotly) debated, but the Group had no power to take action. It met for one year.
· In 2001, the Council established a formal Student Housing Project Group, and initiated an investigation into Shared Housing in Leeds. The following year, a Shared Housing Action Plan was published, and its implementation was overseen by the Student Housing project Group.
· In 2002, Task Groups were established to implement SHAP, under the local Community Involvement Team (now the Area Committee) – a Planning Group, the Central Headingley Strategy Group, and the Community & HE Forum.
· In 2003, Leeds UDP Review proposed ASHORE, comprising a designated Area (in & around Headingley), restraint on student housing within the Area, and encouragement of student housing without.
· In 2004, the Council defended ASHORE at a Public Inquiry, with the support of the community, the universities and Unipol, and against opposition by Leeds Property Association (students did not participate).
· In 2005, the Council is preparing to implement HMO licensing, most of which will concern student HMOs.

31Db Consultation
· In 2001, the Council invited Leeds HMO Lobby to represent the community on the Student Housing Project Group.
· Much of the activity of the SHPG has been driven by the community, both ASHORE and other responses.
· The Council did not take advantage of the consultation procedure for the Leeds UDP Review, with the result that the ASHORE proposal was less well developed than it might have been.

35 Government Response to Studentification
· After eight years, the present government has begun to respond to concerns about studentification. In 2000, the MP for Leeds NW raised the issue in Parliament (Early Day Motion 240). In 2001, the Minister for Housing, Planning & Regeneration visited Leeds, but was unresponsive. In 2002, the new Minister, Lord Falconer, visited Leeds and was ‘chilled’ by what he saw. No relation was established with the next Minister, Lord Rooker. The current Minister, Keith Hill, recognised the issue soon after his appointment in 2003, and he met community representatives early in 2004. Finally, late in 2004, research on Students & Community was commissioned (though with explicit refusal to consider any legislative change).
· The government’s Higher Education policy has completely failed to recognise the accommodation implications of the commitment to a 50% uptake of HE.
· HMO licensing took five years to get from the consultation of 1999 to the statute book in 2004, with the new Housing Act. In the drafting of the Act, the government resolutely refused to extend the scope of mandatory licensing (so that most student houses were included), and local authorities still have to apply to the government for additional licensing.
· The key issue however is planning control over student houses in the PRS, that is HMOs. What is needed is (1) adequate definition of HMO in planning legislation (on the same basis as housing legislation), and (2) identification of HMO as a distinct Use Class (thereby subjecting them to development control). Both measures have been introduced in Northern Ireland – but the government remains resolutely opposed in England & Wales (and Scotland).

Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, Leeds HMO Lobby, February 2005


Leeds HMO Lobby
email: hmolobby@hotmail.com website: www.hmolobby.org.uk/leeds