Government warned over impact of HMO housing restrictions

The BPF has warned the Government that its report restricting houses in multiple occupation could limit housing supplies for those most in need of affordable homes.

Housing and Planning Minister Caroline Flint published the report today with suggestions on combating the perceived problems of dense concentrations of HMOs.

It said this issue, is prominent in university towns leading to ‘studentification’, and has led some backbench MPs and local authority officers to argue for greater planning controls over HMOs.

The BPF has strongly resisted the controls and said it is ‘nonsensical’ to treble student numbers in a decade and then try to restrict an affordable supply of property to house them.

The report by economic consultancy, ECOTEC, recommends a ‘best practice’ option of councils using non-planning related mechanisms to exercise control over shared houses.

The government is to decide which course of action is followed as part of its deliberations on the forthcoming Housing Reform Green paper.

Ian Fletcher, director of residential policy at the BPF, said: ‘If you expand student numbers by 1.5m over a decade and a half those kids have got to live somewhere. What other country in the world would send its young people off to university without making proper provision for where they will live– a gap which the private sector has proudly filled.

‘HMOs are not only an important source of accommodation for students, but also for people who are often least able to put a roof over their heads in society.

'Placing planning restrictions on this important source of affordable accommodation is something we will be arguing strongly should be resisted because it will restrict supply, raise rents and could be used unscrupulously to restrict particular groups in society to particular areas in towns and cities.

‘Today’s report is balanced and illustrates that local authorities, universities and partners have a range of existing powers and practices which they could be using now. It also shows that government needs to do a lot more work before it can sensibly consider any amendments to planning powers.

'In doing so it should not forget that those who will suffer will be the poorest in society and the students least able to afford to go to university.’