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DCLG Housing Research Summary 228
Dealing with 'Problem' Private Rented Housing
DCLG 2006

The Summary provides details of the findings and conclusions drawn from the experiences of a number of pilot projects undertaken by local authorities keen to explore ways to address 'problem' private renting. It is significant in a number of ways.

First of all, it is the first time a government publication has publicly acknowledged that student housing is a problem. It notes for instance that Canterbury "is beginning to experience a problem with its student population ... the 'swamping' of areas with student households has begun to concern residents and members [councillors]" [p6].

Secondly, it also notes that this particular problem can be solved by purpose-built accommodation. "In Salford, the trend of decline in the private rented sector has not abated since the collapse of the student market in the 1990s, following the shift to purpose-built accommodation by the University" [p5]. (But a solution to studentification leads to a new problem of destudentification! This may have a good deal to do with the desirability [or otherwise] of the studentified area.)

Thirdly, the Summary provides useful support for the designation of studentified areas for Additional HMO Licensing.
# The government has hitherto associated problems in the private sector with 'areas of low demand'. Accordingly, "the programme was originally focused on areas of low housing demand. However, the focus of the research was later widened to include local authorities with problem private rented housing in areas of higher demand" [p1]. So high-demand areas can now be legitimate candidates for concern. The Summary amplifies the point: "there is evidence to suggest that in some neighbourhoods housing markets have become unbalanced; that owner occupiers can no longer compete for properties; and that an increased proportion of privately rented properties exacerbates problems of poor management and anti-social behaviour" [p5].
# One cause of such high demand is student housing. The case of Canterbury makes this point [p6].
# Different types of anti-social behaviour (a major motivation for HMO licensing) are acknowledged - not just serious asb. In Swindon, for instance, "anti social behaviour falls into two categories: noise nuisance and rubbish problems, mostly associated with students; and more serious asb ..." [p12]. In Canterbury, "most of the reported ASB consists of student linked noise nuisance and litter problems" [p12].
# The government's preferred response to these sorts of problems is voluntary accreditation schemes ("Canterbury is now introducing an accreditation scheme specifically for student lettings" [p6]). But the Summary admits serious problems with such schemes. "The rise and rise of the investor-led market has changed the profile of landlords and managing agents operating in the area, and made the task of identifying the main owners more difficult for the local authority" [p5]. And "in higher demand markets, there may be little peer pressure or market advantage to encourage landlords to participate in accreditation, and the leverage of the local authority may be reduced as a result" [p7]. This all indicates that a voluntary approach is inadequate, and licensing is necessary instead.

So, this Summary may provide valuable support - if you are trying to get your council to acknowledge studentification as a problem; if you are trying to propose alternatives to concentrations of shared student housing; and if you are trying to get your council to introduce Additional HMO Licensing.


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