National HMO Lobby


National HMO

What is a HMO?
Local HMO Plans
Ten Point Plan


Leeds HMO Lobby
Nottingham Action Group

National Developments
Sustainable Communities
Use Classes Order
HMO Licensing
Taxation of HMOs
Students & Community

National HMO Lobby



Response to
Martin Blakey, 'Disgruntled locals cannot dictate student accommodation policy'
The Guardian, 6 October 2009, p33

Martin Blakey of Unipol Student Homes misrepresents the recent consultation on HMOs as an attack on student accommodation ('Disgruntled locals cannot dictate student accommodation policy' 6 October). But then as a major provider of student housing, he would say that, wouldn't he!

First of all, the consultation which prompted Blakey's response had nothing to do with student accommodation - it was in fact about possible new legislation on shared houses or houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). These are the only form of housing development which in practice at present do not need planning permission. There is no good reason why they should be exempt - and every reason why they should not, as the Planning Officers Society has argued.

Again, this is an issue which is much wider than Blakey's narrow focus. Licensing of HMOs was in fact first proposed in response to concentrations in seaside towns. And planning controls were proposed two years ago by the Communities & Local Government Committee's report on Coastal Towns.

Blakey is right that the government "seems to support increasing student numbers without knowing how to meet their housing needs." Against a deafening silence from higher education, only residents have proposed appropriate measures. In sheer numbers, student HMOs have now far out-stripped those on the coast. Blakey's 'good practice' solutions to the problems are demonstrably inadequate. His own operation Unipol Student Homes has presided over the domination of over a hundred streets in Headingley in Leeds by HMOs. The city is well known for its good practice in response - yet a recent report by Sheffield University identified Headingley as still having the worst community cohesion in the country.

Blakey is also right that "politicians need to consider the wider housing implications." For it is not only the immediate community which suffers from student HMOs. With the new academic year, Headingley has just experienced its annual influx of over 25,000 students (two small towns' worth!) moving into HMOs. At the same time, Leeds has 25,000 citizens on the Council's housing waiting list. What should be first homes for families have been turned into second homes for students.

Finally, Blakey pretends that it's only residents who object to these developments. But in fact, in response to the consultation on HMOs, most of the Core Cities supported new legislation, as well as many other towns, not least those in the Coastal Communities Alliance. And new legislation is supported also by organisations of professionals, including the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Planning Officers Society, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the National HMO Network. Blakey's patronising reference to 'locals' is symptomatic of the ivory-tower arrogance of his own HE patrons.

Dr Richard Tyler is Co-ordinator of the National HMO Lobby, a national network of local community associations, website at

[Not published]


National HMO Lobby
email: website: