National HMO Lobby


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National HMO Lobby



Letters Page

From time to time, the National HMO Lobby and its members publish letters in the national press. (Letters are reproduced as published, rather than as written.)

In response to Penny Churchill, ‘Bricks and Mortar-Boards: the Parents' Guide to Student Property’ Country Life 24 August 2006:
# ‘Student digs’ Sir, Penny Churchill's recommendation about investing in a house for your child to live in while at university doesn't take into account all the implications (August 24). Most students in other countries attend their local university, and it's an increasing trend in the UK. But more needs to be done in order to stop what’s now recognised as a national problem, not only by the Government, but also by the universities themselves.
Where students/parents are buying in great numbers (in most university towns) it is ruinous to the communities; the process also siphons off family homes into the second-home market, at the expense of home-seekers. (In Leeds, for instance, thousands of houses have been converted to student-shared houses, when 500 families are homeless, and another 5,000 are over-crowded).
Most people in Britain now live within commuting distance of a university, and so, if you want to avoid consequences to the communities, and save even more money, then it's worth considering the local university.
Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Lobby, Country Life, 28 September 2006

In response to James Meikle, 'Students told: turn up or face expulsion', The Guardian 11 September 2006:
# ‘Students need lecturing’ [with four other letters] As residents who live near universities await in trepidation the annual influx of students, many will hope that the universities' "good behaviour contracts" will include student behaviour off-campus. It is of course only a minority involved in antisocial behaviour and, more often than not, it arises from thoughtlessness rather than malice. But when the numbers are so large, this amounts to hundreds of students, and misery for residents. In Leeds, the freshers week planning group has been preparing for the influx since March.
Dr Richard Tyler, National Houses in Multiple Occupation Lobby, The Guardian 13 September 2006

In response to an article on student second homes in The Times, 8 August 2006:
# ‘The gown can stifle a town’ Sir, The effect of parents buying flats and houses for their student children (report, Aug 8) is not limited to rising property prices in university towns.
In St Andrews, students represent almost 7,000 of the population of 17,000, and occupy one sixth of the town’s housing stock. Many houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are converted from former social housing. There is a critical shortage of family housing in the town and young people have to move away to raise families.
Students keep different hours from families and older people and noise can be a particular problem. Young people living away from home for the first time are often new to the responsibility of relationships with neighbours. Gardens can be neglected or are converted to hard landscaping to avoid maintenance costs, reducing the visual appeal of the area. Car parking can also be a concern. “Studentification” occurs when whole neighbourhoods are composed primarily of these young, transient and seasonal residents,
Students bring life, fun, interest and many economic benefits to their host communities. When the ratio of student numbers is modest compared with that of the permanent population the problems remain small and manageable. But a tipping point is reached when students make up more than 10 per cent of the local population. These problems have now affected almost every university town in the country.
Dr Angela Montford, Central St Andrews Residents Association, The Times 12 August 2006

In response to Jessica Shepherd, ‘Student “yobs” drive out locals’ Times Higher Education Supplement, 30 June 2006
# [With other letters] Please add Bristol to the list of cities suffering badly from the wholesale takeover of previously well-balanced residential streets. The most potent symptoms are loud student parties that go on all night, but there are many other examples, including verbal abuse of residents, shouting and swearing in the street and gardens. Much noise nuisance occurs when students return from clubs in the small hours.
Of course it is only a small minority of students who are serious offenders, but bad behaviour is infectious, particularly in streets where the student community dominates. The interests of other residents, including families, is at best ignored and often ridiculed.
Student landlords and letting agents do the absolute minimum. Many totally neglect frontages and gardens and fail to ensure that tenants use refuse services properly and do not regularly block pavements with their overflowing bins. And their properties do not even incur Council Tax! They are such a good investment that when residents are driven out it is always student landlords, including parents, who are the buyers.
We are not anti-student, but the current situation is leading to considerable resentment of universities among affected residents. Of course universities bring much to the city, but they must accept the downside, and use their authority and skill to help mitigate the problem. Simply saying that students are independent adults is no longer enough.
A determined effort by all parties could at least moderate the antisocial consequences, but the critical structural problem, the colonisation of mixed and balanced streets by students - studentification - will be harder to crack.
Roger Mortimer, Redland & Cotham Amenities Society, Bristol, THES, 7 July 2006
And in response to a respondent.
# ‘Reality check’ [with another letter] Jeremy Ireland seems to have his own "fluffy bunny fantasy" about students (Letters, July 7). If "socially responsible" students have brought such regeneration to Belfast, Glasgow and Leeds, one wonders why these local authorities (not to mention Birmingham, Durham, Loughborough, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dundee and St Andrews, and so on) have brought in policies to control student housing and why communities in 30 university towns have lobbied for them to do so? And why have universities published a 47-point checklist on coping with studentification? Puzzling, isn't it?
Richard Tyler, National Houses in Multiple Occupation Lobby, THES, 14 July 2006

In response to George Monbiot, ‘Second-home owners are among the most selfish people in Britain’ The Guardian, 23 May 2006
# ‘No place like (a second) home to fuel debate’ [with six other letters] In England & Wales there are 100,000 shared student houses: de facto second homes. Every vacation, students go home, leaving ghost towns behind them. due to the lack of purpose-built accommodation, family homes are bought up by landlords and parents - not only taking these homes out of the general market, but also pushing up prices. In Leeds, for example, there are something like 5,000 student houses - with 500 homeless families and 5,000 in over-crowded accommodation.
Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National Houses in Multiple Occupation Lobby, The Guardian, 25 May 2006

In response to Olga Wojtas, ‘Residents join to fight student enclaves’, Times Higher Education Supplement, 22 April 2005
# ‘Good neighbours?’ News of the "first inter-city coalition" in Scotland to resist concentrations of house in multiple occupation (HMOs) is welcome ("Residents join to fight student enclaves", April 22). But the coalition itself would be the first to point out that it's not in fact the first.
The National HMO Lobby comprises some 30 groups throughout the UK who have been campaigning for five years to sustain their communities against the concentrations of HMOs, which have arisen as a result of the expansion of higher education.
It's facile to call this nimbyism. Students have been welcome for years in the "backyards" of Marchmont in Edinburgh, the Holyland in Belfast, Lenton in Nottingham, Headingley in Leeds, and so on. But it's a different matter to find students in your kitchen and parlour, and even your bedroom. In all these communities, there are now streets where students far outnumber residents.
All the parties concerned recognise that this is a problem and, in response to our lobbying, the Government and the universities have commissioned Darren Smith of Brighton University to research the issues and recommend solutions.
Richard Tyler, National HMO Lobby, Leeds, THES, 29 April 2005

In response to Polly Curtis, 'Work in Progress: Universities and the government are footing the bill for research into where and how students are living' Education Guardian, 11 January 20005
# 'Gowns drown the town' Community groups in Leeds and Nottingham are pleased Education Guardian (Work in progress, January 11) has drawn attention to Darren Smith's research into the problems of 'studentification'. The biggest hurdle we have had to face is getting universities and local and national government to recognise these problems. Students who 'want the chance to live in the "real" world of a local community' so overwhelm that community that they end up living in a student-only enclave. In South Headingley, Leeds, there is a quarter-square-mile patch of 72 streets housing 10,000 people, two-thirds of whom are students. This has a profound impact on safety, environment, economy, and the community itself.
We don't oppose expansion of HE, but we do oppose this destruction of 'sustainable communities'. 'Community wars' have not broken out in Leeds and Nottingham (though the experience of Belfast shows that they may do so) - this is what we are trying to prevent, by engaging all parties in seeking solutions. We shall be submitting our experience to Darren Smith.
Dr Richard Tyler, National HMO (houses in multiple occupation) Lobby, Leeds, Education Guardian, 18 January 2005

In response to Mark Smulian, 'The young ones' Local Government Chronicle 12 April 2007, pp20-21
# 'University Challenge' Because of the positive economic impact of 55,000 students in Sheffield, the adverse effects on communities are considered of minor importance (LGC, 12 April).
Thirty years ago, when Sheffield’s Broomhill Conservation Area was formed, a large section of the area was excluded at the request of the University of Sheffield to make development there easier.
Some minor changes could bring a better balance to communities now being swamped by students -- for example, if houses in multiple occupation were a separate category under planning law. The Government is not supporting even this modest step.
Communities are faced with an unholy alliance of universities acting as commercial corporations with expansionist ambitions, councils bending over backwards to meet their requirements and student unions asserting rather aggressively that their members should be welcomed without reservations.
Mark Pickering, Hon sec, Broomhill Neighbourhood Group, Sheffield, Local Government Chronicle, 26 April 2007

In response to Estelle Morris [former Education Secretary], 'Everone needs the chance to leave home to study' Education Guardian, 26 August 2008, p4.
# 'Stay at home' Estelle's Morris' article on going away to university (Everyone needs the chance to leave home to study, 26 August) is symptomatic of this country's myopic view of higher education. It's myopic in the assumption that the British way is the norm. In fact, around the world, it is the norm to study at your home university. And it's myopic in its ignorance of the effecst on -
- the environment: does it really make sense to have hundreds of thousands of students traversing the country six times a year?
- housing: the majority of those going away are privately housed, so what should be first homes for families are turned into second homes for students;
- cohesion: the impact of student colonies is devastating for communities in the shadow of the ivory tower;
- access: what does more to perpetuate HE as a middle-class enclave than the boarding-school model of attendance?
Access to HE will be equitable only 'going away' is ditched.
Dr Richard Tyler, HMO Lobby, Leeds, Education Guardian, 2 September 2008, p4

In response to Editorial, 'Unthinkable? Staying home for uni' Guardian, 12 December 2009, p36
# It's not only students who would benefit from staying home for uni (Unthinkable?, 12 December). It would relieve local communities from student colonisation. It would free up student second-homes as first homes for families. And it would save the environment from the impact of those thrice-yearly migrations.
Richard Tyler, National HMO Lobby, Guardian, 16 December 2009, p33


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