MSCC Public Meeting with Guest Speaker David Middleton
11th June 2008
If MSCC are looking for a solution to local social problems then perhaps it would be useful to consider the situation in St Andrew’s. While the residents of St Andrew’s accept the importance of students to the economy and know that students like to live as part of the community, there are problems brought about by the concentration of HMO’s in certain areas.
In St Andrews half of the students live in halls of residence while 3500 live in the community in the historic core of St Andrews. This has led to a deterioration to the fabric of these buildings. HMO’s tend to pack together leading to 100% HMO’s in some areas. Those who would carry on the historical spirit of the area are no longer there. The student community is transient bringing no sense of identity to the area.
This is not confined to St Andrews but occurs also in Glasgow. To accommodate more people, landlords here have repositioned kitchens and bathrooms and the noises from formica type flooring presents a problem for neighbours. In conservation areas where there is no limitation to HMO’s this results in a degradation of the area rather than an enhancement.
Government has recognised that there is a problem and SPP3 looks at housing in general. In Northern Ireland the law on HMO’s has changed. There could be fines of £20,000.
SUSCOMS makes the sensible suggestion of the need for sustainable communities to avoid the adverse cumulative effect of development.
There are 180,000 students in Scotland, i.e. more than the population of Dundee.
No one is taking responsibility for this group of people. Planning departments just take a guess at how many purpose built properties for students are required.
We need to analyse the situation and estimate properly the numbers required for purpose built accommodation. It is not helpful to victimise one group be they students, landlords, developers or planners.
What does sustainable communities mean? Does it mean families? Certainly families should have the option of living in the same area. HMO’s increase the value of properties and tend to price out young families and first time buyers. The rent obtained from an HMO is not a practical rent for a young family.
Other factors of concern include
a) the clash of lifestyles of young people and families. A group of well behaved students one year may be followed by a differently behaving group the next year.
b) If an area is predominately HMO the shops change
c) In St Andrews, an area of social housing built in the 1930’s is now predominately HMO. This has exacerbated the problem of homelessness in St Andrews making it the highest in UK
d) New tenants do not have the right to buy
So what is the solution. Suggestions are:
1. Build more accommodation.
2. Ecofriendly area, socially inclusive
3. Glasgow partnership with social landlords
4. St Andrews student association, properties owned by the students
A reminder that if HMO’s are restricted, it is not the students who are made homeless.
We can see this non-sustainability occurring in Tollcross area. When a new HMO application goes forward there should be a list of neighbouring HMO’s made available. Fife Council are forced to provide this information under Freedom of Information. Dundee have the licensing and planning informatiion available on the internet.
In Edinburgh there is the problem of lack of enforcement. The licensing department need to consider the needs of the whole community.
People have the right to object to a license but councils usually very resistant.
Planning should deal with the concentration of HMO’s but there is no law to control the planning process. Complacency will result in there being no change in the effect of planning regulations.
In Edinburgh there are 41,000 FT students. There is some dedicated student accommodation but when landlords overstep the rules, council do not enforce the regulations.
Family homes are for families. We have to determine if University is still expanding or static. Then purpose built accommodation in the right location is the way to go. On a campus is good, part of the University enabling social interaction.
There has been a soft touch approach to enforcement. The concordat has been discredited because no risk assessment included. We must encourage all lanlords to have a license. If no enforcement we need a risk assessment.
If we restrict HMO’s, we will depress the property price. Some residents will be concerned that we depress their asset.
What will be a suitable percentage sugested to allow a good mix in an area.
Other issues discussed were requirement to maintain gardens , clean windows and stairs. Historic properties should be looked after.
There should be a survey to find out what do students want. ?? Eco villages, co-operative housing, stand alone groups of houses. Instead of this we have historic buildings destroyed, fireplaces ripped out.
1.Purpose built accommodation provides no privacy and the rooms are of minimum size.
2.Some students are at University for 8-9 years.
3.Students understand the concerns of residents and suggest compulsory carpets to reduce noise
5. Private landlords often more responsible than University accommodation.
6. One problem for overseas students is that university accommodation is too expensive. It is cheaper in private sector. This may be because University pays council tax whereas private landlords do not.
1. Student grant should cover cost of accommodation and council tax. Council obtains finance from landlords via licensing fee. This fee should cover cost of garbage collection and other council activity.
2. The licensing scheme should be financially self supporting. We have a low licensing fee which is not properly enforced. There is a direct connection between the level of the licensing fee and the level of enforcement.
We suggest an increase in the license fee which should include a requirement for stairs and gardens.
Should it be through licensing or planning??
If planning system is to be used as suggested by government, then we need to make changes.
Planning permission should be required for all HMO’s even if there are only 3 residents. Houses need to be brought into the scheme as well.
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