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Students & Community

National HMO Lobby




I write in response to GOYH's invitation for commentary on its Regional Housing Strategy. I write on behalf of the Yorkshire Region of the National HMO Lobby - we are a nationwide network of community associations which are very concerned about the impact on their communities of developments in the private rented sector, especially concentrations of HMOs. Our Region comprises members in Leeds, Sheffield and York. By way of example, I may cite my own area, in and around Headingley in Leeds, where there has been massive exploitation of the local housing stock by private landlords (especially in response to demand for student housing). In 2001, 59% of the population of Headingley Ward lived in the PRS (compared with 12% nationally) - by definition therefore this was a transient (dominant) segment of the local population, leading to major destabilisation.

We offer the following observations on the Questions in your leaflet A New Regional Housing Strategy for Yorkshire and the Humber.

Q1 Priorities: We strongly support the aspiration to 'successful neighbourhoods' and 'sustainable communities'. What is important to recognise is that unsustainability does not only follow from low demand (as government generally assumes). The housing market in Headingley, for example, appears to be vibrant - but it is entirely in response to a transient market, and at the expense of affordability and stability. At the same time, this market is taking quality family housing out of the general market. (In many respects, there are parallels with problems of affordability in rural areas, in consequence of second-home ownership - which is effectively what student shared houses are.)

Q2 Targeting: Hysterical markets, like ours, clearly need special attention.

Q3 Policies: If 'studentification' is to be acknowledgement in the RHS, then the government's policy on HE expansion is clearly relevant. As you may know, a Student Housing Project has been set up by the LGA and UUK, to identify the problem and examples of good practice.

Q4 Gaps: The leaflet mentions both 'older people' and 'sustainability'. In our case, it is both the demands of younger people (especially students), and the implications of their demand for sustainability, which we would wish to see acknowledged (and hopefully addressed) by the RHS.

Q5-6 Sub-Areas: The student housing market is highly localised, not only within university towns like Leeds, Sheffield and York, but within particular areas of these towns.

Q7-8 Private Sector: A parasitical element of the private sector (speculators investing in existing properties) has generated our problem. But another element of the private sector (in collaboration with HEIs) may well assist its solution: many developers (like UNITE) are interested in providing for the student housing market with purpose-built accommodation. Suitably located, such accommodation can ease the problems we experience.

Q9 Innovation: In Headingley, we wish to explore the possibility of using Community Land Trusts to intervene in the market, in order to sustain sustainable communities (as has been done in some rural areas, eg in Wales, and as is proposed in London). Any support the RHS was able to provide would be very valuable.

Q10 Replacement: One of our fears is that the exploitation of properties by some landlords may lead to the need to replace them.

Q11-13 Outcomes: The National HMO Lobby strongly supports your first high-level objective, "contributing to the sustainability of communities by making them places where people want to come and stay."

Q14 RHS: We hope that our perspective, specific though it is, may be acknowledged in the RHS.

Best wishes, Dr Richard Tyler, Yorkshire Co-ordinator, National HMO Lobby


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