Student Housing and HMO Update

Thanks to Liz Hobden from the council Planning Strategy & Projects Team for this update.

The council is undertaking two separate consultations relating to student housing and houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

1.      Article 4 Direction for Student Housing and HMOs

A consultation is underway on a proposal to control changes of use from small houses to small houses in multiple occupation. This is known as an Article 4 direction. The purpose of the direction is to prevent over-concentration of student lets and HMOs in the five wards most affected:

  •  Moulsecoomb and Bevendean
  • Hanover and Elm Grove
  • Hollingbury and Stanmer
  • St Peters and North Laine
  • Queen’s Park

The consultation runs until 20 July and we would like to receive your views. This link will provide you with further details and access to the Consultation Portal: http://tinyurl.com/article4direction

2.    The City Plan

The City Plan has a new policy on student housing and houses in multiple occupation (known as HMOs). The aim is to promote new purpose built student accommodation in suitable locations and to help manage the concentration or clustering of student lets and other HMOs in established residential neighbourhoods.

New purpose built student accommodation

Five sites are identified in the Plan for new purpose built student housing. This will help encourage students to choose managed accommodation over HMOs and is particularly important for first year students. The five sites are:

  • Varley Halls, Coldean Lane, Brighton
  • Preston Barracks, Lewes Road, Brighton
  • Pelham Street, Brighton
  • Circus Street, Brighton
  • East Slope, University of Sussex

The policy also sets out clear criteria against which any other new student housing schemes will be assessed.

Controlling the concentration of HMOs

This part of the policy will work in tandem with the proposed Article 4 direction. This means that planning permission would be required for changes of use from family homes to small HMOs. At the moment these changes can take place without planning permission. Planning permission will not be granted where more than 10% of neighbouring properties are already in HMO use.

You can find out more about the City Plan and you can make comments online at: http://tinyurl.com/cityplanone

The draft City Plan and supporting documents area also available to view at Brighton Customer Service in Bartholomew Square, Hove Customer Service Centre, Hove Town Hall, Portslade Customer Service Centre and all local libraries.

You can use the council’s consultation portal to send in your response online, or you can download a response form from the council’s website. Forms are also available from the council’s Customer Service Centres or the Library.

Completed response forms and all other comments must be received by no later than 20 July 2012.

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.