Bath and North East Somerset Council is to undertake a review of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in Bath to ensure the right balance is struck between HMOs and conventional housing in the city.
The review is taking place following a discussion at a recent meeting of the new Bath City Forum on the wider issue of student accommodation in the city, and will focus on two main areas:
- The standard and condition of HMOs in the city;
- How the Council can better manage the growth of HMOs in the city.
As part of the review, the Council will be seeking views on HMO provision so that they can be better managed in the interests of tenants, landlords and the wider community.
Further details of how residents can give their views will be released by the Council in the coming weeks.
Part of the review will be looking at evidence for whether existing controls on the number and density of HMOs in the Oldfield Park area of the city need to be amended or extended to ensure the right balance is maintained between HMOs and ordinary homes throughout the city.
The findings of the review will then be reported back to the Cabinet and the Bath City Forum and will feed into any proposed changes to the way in which HMOs are managed in the city.
Chair of the Bath City Forum Councillor Bob Goodman (Conservative, Combe Down), who is leading the Council’s review of HMOs as Cabinet Assistant for Homes and Planning, said: “Ensuring we have the right balance between student accommodation and family homes in Bath is an increasingly important issue for local residents, and is one of the top priorities for the new City Forum.
“Looking at ways to manage both the growth and quality of HMOs in Bath is an important part of this wider look at this type of accommodation in the city.
“However, whilst HMOs form a significant element of student housing in the city, it’s important to remember that not all HMOs are occupied by students – many are also occupied by young professionals or those on low incomes.
“We will therefore be seeking the widest possible input from local people as we embark upon this review over the coming months, including students, businesses, tenants and landlords, as well as the residents of communities affected by increasing numbers of HMOs.”
Councillor Liz Richardson (Conservative, Chew Valley North), Cabinet Member for Homes and Planning, added: “Looking at how to address this issue is a key priority for the Cabinet.
“HMOs affect a wide variety of people – ranging from residents living nearby, to lower income residents including students, young professionals, those receiving housing support and vulnerable single people – for whom HMOs may be their only option for affordable housing.
“We want to ensure that those living in HMOs, as well as those living in the local neighbourhood, can enjoy a good quality of life.
“It’s important to recognise that HMOs are an important part of the housing supply. Our concerns are to manage these better both in terms of numbers and locations but also in terms of the quality of accommodation.
“We’re therefore keen to determine whether further actions are needed to be taken in managing the potential growth of HMOs, as well as their standard and quality across the city.”
The review aims to build upon previous work by the Council, which in 2013 resulted in the Council adopting new powers to both limit the growth of HMOs in parts of the city where there are already high densities of HMOs, as well as the introduction of new licensing powers that enabled the Council to improve the standard and management of these properties in parts of the city with the highest numbers of HMOs.
The review will consider the development plans for both Bath Spa University and the University of Bath, including their future plans for student accommodation, in order to review the current Article 4 Direction and accompanying Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).
The Council’s aim is to ensure a fair balance that enables Bath’s universities and colleges to fulfil their ambitions whilst also ensuring an effective community balance is maintained.
As part of the review, the Council will be encouraging people to have their say and come forward with their views. Further details of how you can get involved will be announced in due course.
HMO Facts and Figures for B&NES:
It is estimated that there are up to 30,000 bed spaces across 6,000 HMOs in the whole of the Bath and North East Somerset area.
Bath & North East Somerset Council is also responsible for ensuring the safety of over 7,000 people living in 1,500 licensed HMOs – conducting regular inspections of properties and offering advice and guidance to landlords to make sure standards are kept.
The most common problems found in HMOs are poor fire precautions, poor heating and insulation and dangerous stairs.
The Council has clamped down on a number of unsafe HMO issues, including:
- Smallest bedroom at 4m2 – the size of a double bed;
- Largest HMO inspected had 31 occupants;
- 5 people found sleeping in one room;
- Man found living in a freight container;
- Family of 5 found living in a sauna room within an HMO;
- HMO above a takeaway raided with the police – uncovering dangerous conditions and overcrowding.
The continued responsible management of HMOs was a key issue emerging from the first meeting of the Bath City Forum earlier this year.