National HMO Lobby


National HMO

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Students & Community

National HMO Lobby



Students & Community

The National HMO Lobby is concerned with all kinds of HMO when these gather in concentrations. There are three main markets for HMOs, benefit claimants, young professionals, and students. The student market is by far the most important of these*. The Lobby therefore takes a special interest in student HMOs and their impact on communities. Like most markets, the HMO market tends towards concentrations, and this is especially the case with student HMOs. Such concentrations have developed in many university towns. This and its impact have given rise to what has been termed 'studentification'. In response to this development, the Lobby's over-riding aim is to maintain balance in communities, in order to ensure their long-term sustainability. More particularly, the Lobby's concern is to defend (against market forces) the equal opportunity of residents to reside in their community. (See 'Comprehending Community' for a discussion of the idea of community.)

The Lobby has been concerned, both to clarify the concept of studentification, and to campaign for its recognition and resolution. The Lobby has adopted a Discussion Document on Studentification, which defines the concept, and analyses its causes, course and consequences (this document is accompanied by a catalogue of the Symptoms of Studentification). These and other documents have been published in Balanced Communities & Studentification (see also, the accompanying news release). Universities have been keen to publicise the benefits to communities of higher education institutions (for instance, the Universities UK leaflet Universities: engaging with local communities, published to coincide with the conference in 2006) - they have been less keen on the local costs. For the same conference therefore, the Lobby has prepared a Discussion Document on Accounting for Sustainability, which considers the local costs of studentification. Discipline lies outside the Lobby's normal remit - but such is its members' concern, the Lobby has also produced a Discussion Document, Keeping the Peace.

The Lobby's campaigns on studentification have taken place on both general and specific fronts. In general terms, the Lobby has sought public recognition of the phenomenon, and this has been pursued especially through the media. Local and national agitation has received coverage in the national media since the pioneering article in the The Guardian in 2000. Since then, reports have appeared in 2002 (Observer, Times), in 2003 (Telegraph, a series in THES, Times again), in 2004 (Economist, Mail, Guardian, Independent, and also on television and radio), in 2005 (Guardian, radio), in 2006 (THES, Observer, television & radio) and in 2007 (Telegraph, Guardian, radio) [see National Developments for details]. Meanwhile, a numerous conferences have been convened on aspects of studentification - in 2003 in Ulster (national), in 2004 in Leeds (national, Unipol), in 2005 in Belfast (local), in 2006 in London (national, UUK), in Canterbury (local) and in Nottingham (national, Unipol), in 2007 in Nottingham (Councillors), London (NUS) and Norwich (all national) [see National Developments for details].

The Lobby's specific campaign for resolution of the issue arose from the general campaigning. Soon after he was appointed as Minister for Housing & Planning in 2003, Keith Hill acknowledged the problem of 'studentification'. On 12 February 2004, Alan Simpson MP (Nottingham S) and Nottingham City Council secured a meeting with the Minister, which was also attended by other MPs whose constituencies were affected by studentification, and by the National HMO Lobby. Following the meeting, the Minister and his colleague, the Minister for Higher Education, Alan Johnson, consulted, and in December, the ODPM and the DfES funded a research project commissioned by Universities UK and SCOP, in collaboration with the LGA. The project was led by Dr Darren Smith (University of Brighton), and a Steering Group was set up, representing these participants. The National HMO Lobby requested representation, but was refused. The project was reported in The Guardian in January 2005, when research began. Among other things, questionnaires were sent to universities and communities - seventeen members of the Lobby responded, including Leeds HMO Lobby. The Report, titled Studentification: a guide to opportunities, challenges and practice, was finally published in January 2006, and launched at the UUK conference The Engagement of Students and Higher Education Institutions with their Communities in London on 25 January 2006. The Lobby's riposte to this Report is the Ten Point Plan.

The government acknowledged the problem of studentification for the first time in print in the DCLG's Housing Research Summary 228 Dealing with 'Problem' Private Rented Housing (2006). The Parliamentary University Group held a meeting on Student Accommodation in the House of Lords on 15 November 2006. On 12 December 2006, Andy Reed MP asked a question in the Commons about sustainable communities in areas of high density student housing. In March 2007, the Lobby was pleased to contribute to NUS's Students and the Community Roundtable Think Tank (London, 1-2 March 2007): the outcome, the Report Students in the Community, was launched in London on 11 June 2007. Meanwhile, the matter was again raised in the Commons, in an Early Day Motion on 16 May, in a Ten Minute Rule Motion on 22 May, and in an Adjournment Debate on 5 June 2007.

On 25 October 2007, Engaging with the Community: Open Letter to Our Universities was presented by the Lobby to the President of Universities UK.

The government undertook to address studentification in autumn 2007. Simon Llewellyn, Head of Private Renting and Leasehold at Communities and Local Government, wrote "we believe that there is a range of non-planning steps which we can take to address the problems caused by 'studentification' and that, to make a real impact in this area, a coordinated programme of action, bringing together a number of policy levers, is needed. To achieve this it is important to engage the key stakeholders – principally local authorities, private landlords, the universities and students themselves. There appear to be a number of levers available to local authorities that could assist in addressing many of the issues faced in areas with high concentrations of HMOs, and it is not clear why they are not being used successfully in areas that are experiencing these problems. We therefore propose to establish a Taskforce with interested local authorities and universities to explore how these measures might be brought to bear. These measures include activities such as neighbourhood management schemes, landlord accreditation and additional licensing for HMOs. We will ask the Taskforce to present their recommendations to Government in spring 2008. We will be writing to potentially interested local authorities ... in due course to establish membership of this Taskforce." Alison Edwards (also DCLG) has added ""I agree that the community is a very important stakeholder and, as such, I agree that community groups should be represented by the National HMO Lobby on the Taskforce we are establishing. We are also looking into the feasibility of holding a conference early in the New Year to kick start the work of the Taskforce." In a written answer in the Commons on 15 January 2008, Planning Minister Iain Wright reiterated this commitment: "We propose to consult on possible amendments to the Use Classes Order in relation to HMOs later in the year."

On 23 January 2008, Housing & Planning Minister announced a Review of the private rented sector. The review will look how the increasing number of buy to let accommodation and student tenants has impacted on the private rented sector. A Policy Round Table on Student Housing is to be held on 4 March.

On 3 March 2008, John Denham, Secretary of State at DIUS, announced The New University Challenge, a plan to develop twenty new HE centres: the Lobby responded to the Minister, and subsequently to the consultation organised by HEFCE.

On 9 April 2008, "a new review aimed at improving the management and conditions of people living in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) was launched by Housing and Planning Minister Caroline Flint." The announcement made specific reference to 'student ghost towns.'

On 9 June 2008, NUS held a conference in Leeds on Students in the Community: Beyond the Campus. And on 12-14 August, Unipol held a conference on Student Housing: The Market, The Community and What Students' Unions Can Do, also in Leeds. But neither conference was interested in hearing from community representatives. However, community representation was included in the University of Brighton's Universities & Community Liaison conference, 11-12 August 2008.

On 26 September, CLG published Evidence Gathering - Housing in Multiple Occupation and possible planning responses a report on the review announced in April. The Lobby responded the following month. On 10 October, NHPAU published Rapid Evidence Assessment of the Research Literature on the Purchase and Use of Second Homes; the Lobby has published a discussion document on Second Homes for Students. And on 23 October, the PRS Review was published - to which the Lobby has also responded.

On 12 November, the 'New University Challenge' was followed by the launch of a Debate on the Future of Higher Education, to which the Lobby has submitted a response.

On 28 January 2009, Unipol held another conference on student housing and its impact, The Rugg Review and Its Relevance to Students; no contribution has been invited from community representatives.

At the beginning of 2009, NUS published Neighbourhood: Partnerships and Planning on 'how to build your profile in the local community.' It studiously avoids any reference to the representation of local communities by the National HMO Lobby.

On 21 July 2009, the Cabinet Office published Unleashing Aspiration: The final report of the panel on fair access to the professions. The Report noted "We also believe there is a strong case for local students who are living at home and studying locally to have the opportunity of ‘fee-free’ higher education. It will be important that this model does not impact upon the quality of teaching and academic support, or lead to a two tier system of
higher education" (p96). Recommendation 43 proposed "The Government should consider ... new support for students living and learning at their local university, including ‘fee-free’ higher education."

In the summer of 2009, Unipol repeated the conferences it held in the summer of 2008: Students in the Community: Recent developments in student-led community partnerships in Birmingham on 11 June 2009, and Student Housing, the Market, the Community and what Student Unions can do on 18-20 August 2009.

From May to August, CLG consulted on Houses in multiple occupation and possible planning responses. The results of the consultation were published on 27 January 2010: the summary revealed that only 1% of responses were made by student unions.

On 17 February 2010, the Co-ordinator of the National HMO Lobby joined the Panel at Volunteering England's Policy Seminar on 'Can students be good citizens?' in London.

In June 2010, Guild HE, NUS & Universities UK published Living Together, Working Together, on good practice in university towns. The National HMO Lobby co-operated in its preparation, but it does not endorse the publication.

On 18 April 2011, LV= (Liverpool Victoria) Insurance issued a report titled "STUDENT EXODUS COULD LEAVE UNIVERSITY CITIES 'GHOST TOWNS' BY 2020", which was reported in the Express and the Mirror and several local newspapers. The report says, "Next year's tuition fee increases, coupled with declining numbers of 18-24 year-olds in the general population over the next decade, will see a 14% decline in British higher education student numbers over the next ten years ... half (52%) of all younger students will choose a local higher education establishment and stay with their parents." These conclusions have been endorsed by subsequent developments: an article in The Guardian on 24 October noted that 10% of A-level students have been deterred from applying to university by fee increases, and half are considering a local university; the article also notes the current decline in number of school-leavers (it also notes that demand does vary between universities). The following day, another Guardian article gave more spcific figures on applications.

The National Union of Students has become of aware of these developments, and the issues they raise. In April 2012, NUS published a pamphlet on The Future of Student Housing, for discussion at their National Conference. Contributions came from a range of stakeholders, including the National HMO Lobby, and also, the Housing Minister and representatives of Shelter, Unipol, British Property Federation, Residential Landlords Association, National Landlords Association, Association of Residential Letting Agents, and NUS itself.

And then, on 10 May 2012, Unipol held a Seminar in London on Students and Planning. Ostensibly, "the day will review and discuss the progress of planning restrictions on houses of multiple occupation being carried out under "Article 4" powers taken by some 40 local authorities - mainly in areas of higher education with most aimed specifically at students." In fact, speakers represented only the views of students and landlords. This is to be followed up by an extended version in Leeds, on 16-17 August, on Student Housing: the Market, the Community and What Students' Unions Can Do; speakers this time are mainly from NUS and Unipol.

On 18 October 2012, Unipol Student Homes held a seminar in London on Uncertainty, Changes and Voids. "The 2012-2013 academic year has seen seismic changes in the pattern and predictability of demand for student accommodation throughout the country. Many institutions have gone from being over-subscribed to under-subscribed and those that have full occupancy have found this year's demands to be very different from last year. Although a reduction in demand was predicted, the extent of the volatility of student accommodation demand was not. Was this a "triple whammy" of the AAB's, the first year of full cost fees and falling international student numbers coupled with the effects of institutional insecurity in a new market place?"

On 12 July 2013, Savills published a report on UK Student Housing. The report noted that "a potential 66,000 properties could be freed up for family housing" if they were not in use as student HMOs.

*Approximately 80% of HMOs around Leeds are occupied by students, according to property auctioneers Allsops ('Fall in price of student property predicted', Yorkshire Evening Post, 22 December 2005). See also Students in the Private Rented Sector.


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