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Students & Community

National HMO Lobby



National Union of Students
Students in the Community
Working together in harmony

NUS, London, June 2007

The NUS Report Students in the Community was the outcome of a Roundtable Think Tank in London, 1-2 March 2007, with contributions from the National HMO Lobby, and was launched on 11 June 2007. It is available on the NUS website.

The Lobby issued a News Release before the launch, and sent a letter of objection to the authors afterwards.

News Release, 5 June 2007

NUS: Not Under Stood

On 11 June, the National Union of Students (NUS) launches its new Report on Students in the Community. As a national network, representing communities in university (and other) towns throughout the UK, the National HMO Lobby welcomes the Report. After many years of campaigning, it is rewarding to the Lobby that (following the universities) NUS has now acknowledged that serious issues arise between students at university and their host communities. At the same time, the Lobby is frustrated that NUS has indulged in scaremongering in the Report, raising quite irrelevant issues. And the Lobby is deeply disappointed that NUS has simply not under stood the real problem - which is not 'students in the community' but rather 'students in stead of the community.'

No-one denies the good works that a number of students do in the community (least of all the National HMO Lobby). However, there is no denying that young adults, away from home for the first time, can sometimes be difficult neighbours. The Report accepts this. And it points out that around the country, numerous Students Unions have been inventive in finding ways to tackle these problems. (The Lobby's own guidance is a simple Community Code: Say hello! keep the peace! clean up!) The National HMO Lobby warmly welcomes this initiative by NUS.

But at the same time, the Lobby is seriously frustrated by the false bogeymen raised by NUS. Communities are accused of discriminating against students and "labelling them outsiders." No representative community organisation has done so. The Lobby's concern has always been for equal opportunities for residents, in the face of intense pressure from student demand for local resources. And again, communities are accused of seeking to use "national legislation to restrict the number of students living in some parts of cities." Again, this is false, and no representative community organisation has done so. Certainly, the Lobby has campaigned for changes in planning legislation. But this has been to enable local authorities effectively to manage housing developments at a time of national shortage - and especially, to resist the conversion of family homes into seasonal second homes - whoever the occupants are.

But the Report is most disappointing in its failure to acknowledge the real problem posed by students 'in' the community. In fact, if students are really in the community, then there is no real problem - student houses scattered among the normal diversity of a community only add to that diversity, and are welcomed. But in so many suburbs in university towns around the country, this is not what has happened. University expansion has been so huge, the demand for student accommodation has been so intense, university provision has been so low, council powers have been so weak - that whole neighbourhoods have become student colonies - Headingley in Leeds, Lenton in Nottingham, Brynmill in Swansea, and so on, and so on. It is not unusual for whole streets to become almost entirely student houses - not in the community, but in stead of the community. A new term has been coined for this phenomenon, studentification (used even by the universities themselves). 'Studentification' is completely different from 'students in the community.' Studentification devastates the local community, and produces a quantum leap in local problems (crime, squalor, a resort economy). Without addressing the cause, attempts to tackle the effects are doomed to failure. Yet the NUS Report denies the difference between the diversity of 'students in the community' and the homogenisation of 'studentification.'

'NUS has long been in denial about studentification,' says Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator of the National HMO Lobby. 'The Lobby had hoped that the new Report would set the record straight. Despite its aspiration of "working together", it's symptomatic that no community representative is billed to speak at the launch. The Lobby remains deeply diaappointed that NUS has simply not under stood what the real problem is.


Working together in harmony
: National HMO Lobby
To: National Union of Students
Date: 14 June 2007

To Veronica King, Vice-President Welfare, and Agnes Gautier, Research & Policy Officer, National Union of Students

You have made an instant travesty of Working together in harmony, the sub-title of the NUS Report Students in the Community. There wasn't much 'working together' at the launch of the Report on 11 June. And there's certainly little 'harmony' in a Report which perpetrates falsehoods about the National HMO Lobby.

The Report misrepresents the representations by the National HMO Lobby. In the Focus panel on page 16, the following is said: "Some councils and lobbies, such as the HMO lobby, have called for Use Classes Orders to be used to restrict the numbers of HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) being built offering accommodation to students. This would mean using planning permission to restrict a certain category of the population (students) to live somewhere."

That would be the meaning - if the National HMO Lobby had ever said such a thing. That however is completely false. The Lobby has never called for the use of the UCO to restrict any category of the population. Do you have any evidence at all for this (false) accusation? What the Lobby has called for, is amendment of the UCO - first, to provide adequate definition of HMO (which would benefit all concerned), and second, to change their classification. The Lobby has never made reference anywhere to the occupants of HMOs. In fact, that is precisely why the Lobby is concerned with HMOs, and not with any class of occupant (if you were better informed, you would know that we campaign on HMOs in a wide range of contexts, not only student HMOs). This point was made in a commentary on the Draft Report, emailed to Agnes on 9 April. (By the way, the Use Classes Order is concerned with change of use, not with newly built accommodation.)

In the same panel, you also refer to ASHORE in Leeds. The Inspector did decide against this policy proposal. But he replaced it with an Area of Housing Mix - which does in fact explicitly "restrain housing in one area." Student housing will now be given permission in the Area only on the basis of five stringent conditions. (The Lobby's own recommendation was that this policy should refer to HMOs.)

On page 27 reference is made to the Direction on Letting Boards in Leeds. This measure was in fact the result of six years campaigning by residents (not two), and at no point did students 'combine' with residents. This correction was also made in the commentary mentioned above.

On both occasions when Leeds is mentioned in the Report, the account turns out to be inaccurate. You also give examples from Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, Derby, Liverpool, Loughborough, Nottingham, Reading and York. It is difficult to have any confidence that these are any more accurate.

We expect to disgree with NUS over some issues. We are resigned to NUS being in denial over the reality of studentification. But we will not tolerate lies about the Lobby.

The National HMO Lobby formally requests the National Union of Students to publish a correction and apology in a prominent position on the home page of its website for a period of at least one month.

Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National HMO Lobby

No action has yet been taken.



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