September meeting in brief part 2 – Houses in Multiple Occupation

The other main topic this month was Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO’s). Large numbers of properties being coverted from family into shared housing in the area brings pressures.

Previous meeting have looked at night noise, refuse and recycling issues and parking as being particularly impacted upon by an increased and more transient population.  Additionally – and harder to quantify – are worries that the ‘liveability’ of the neighbourhood changes with greater population churn, that people become less likely to know their neighbours and that short term residents have less of a commitment to the area and community.

With these issues in mind, the meeting was pleased to welcome the Head of Operations at BHCC Housing Strategy – Martin Reed and Liz Hobden from the BHCC Local Development Team.

Martin focussed on HMO licencing.  At present all HMO’s shared by more than 5 people and comprising three stories or more need to be licenced by the council. Being licenced means that the quality of the accomodation is checked and poorly converted or badly managed properties can be refused a licence. Penalties for breach of licence can be significant and more details about the current regime – including a register of HMO’s can be found on the council website. Martin is currently looking at changing the licence conditions to include properties of two stories or more rather than three, which will bring a lot more local properties into the licencing regime.  To make this change, Martin needs to carry out a full consultation, and the likelyhood of this going forward will depend on the outcome of this. More information on this process will be posted here as it becomes available.

The second strand of the HMO debate came from Liz, who is looking at the potential of a planning tool called an  ‘Article 4 Direction‘. Currently, if a property is extended to to provide extra bedrooms as a viable HMO, so long as it it doesn’t excede its permited development rights it would not normally need planning permission. An Article 4 Direction can be made which removes permitted development rights in some circumstances; this doesn’t mean that properties cannot be extended, but would mean that developers would need planning consent for these changes. This process is being adopted at the moment by other local authorities for similar reasons. If an Article 4 Direction is made, Liz is exploring a precentage level of HMO’s per street – the example given was 10% – which could be established via planning, meaning greater local control over the proliferation of HMO’s in the City.

Contributions from both officers were warmly welcomed and much appreciated. More details will be placed in the minutes, and updates will be posted as they are available.

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