Better control of student housing.

B&NES is going to take a fresh look at better controlling student housing. The Council has published new proposals which seek to better control the growth of HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) in Bath and prevent there being further areas with high concentrations of HMOs from developing in the city.

The proposals would mean that, barring exceptional circumstances, applications for new HMOs would be refused in areas where 10% or more of properties have already been converted into multiple occupancy homes.

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A House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) is, in principle, a house or flat which is occupied by three or more unrelated people who share facilities such as a kitchen and bathroom. Bath has seen a significant increase in HMOs and private rented property over the last 10-15 years with HMOs forming an important part of the local housing market, providing affordable accommodation for students, professionals and migrant workers among others.

Three years ago the Council removed permitted development rights to convert residential properties to small HMOs and planning permission for change of use is now required.  A framework was adopted to assess such applications with the aim of avoiding further high concentrations of HMOs developing in the city.  This framework is now being reviewed and, following consultation, includes a proposal to change the threshold from  25% to 10% in any one area for when the Council will consider refusing planning applications for conversion to HMOs.  Existing HMO’s will not be affected.

The leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council Cllr Tim Warren (Conservative, Mendip) said:  “These proposals are responding to concerns raised by residents about the proliferation of HMOs in parts of Bath and the impact this can have on the mix of available housing in the area.

As a Council, our aim is to ensure that Bath has a balanced mix of housing types to meet the needs of the city, and the growing number of HMOs in recent years has become an increasing concern for many residents. Our proposals

Our proposals would, therefore, limit the number of HMOs in a given area to no more than 10% of properties. In areas where more than 10% of properties are already HMOs, it would be expected that no new applications for HMO conversions would be permitted.”

Cabinet Assistant for Homes & Planning Cllr Bob Goodman (Conservative, Combe Down), who has been leading the review of HMO policy, said: “Whilst these proposals won’t prevent all new HMOs from gaining planning permission, it will help to control their growth and prevent further areas from developing with high concentrations. We recognise the role HMOs have to play as part of our area’s wider mix of housing stock, not just for students but particularly for young professionals as well.  However, we also believe it is right to control their growth and ensure a balance of housing types within communities. In the coming weeks we

We recognise the role HMOs have to play as part of our area’s wider mix of housing stock, not just for students but particularly for young professionals as well.  However, we also believe it is right to control their growth and ensure a balance of housing types within communities. In the coming weeks we will, therefore, be listening to feedback on these proposals, and depending on this feedback a full public consultation will be undertaken prior to adopting any changes in the autumn.

“These proposals on HMOs are also all part of our wider look at the issue of student accommodation in the city and the work we are doing to look at how the Council can control the growth in student accommodation and ensure a balanced housing mix in the city.”

The Council is reviewing the evidence regarding HMO’s using up-to-date data and surveys, has consulted with the Universities, undertaken public consultation with communities and held stakeholders’ workshops.

The meeting of the Scrutiny Panel on 4th of July is part of the process to help the Council come to a conclusion on the need for any changes to the planning policy for HMOs.  Any changes will be subject to public consultation scheduled for the autumn.