Plans to manage the growth and distribution of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in Bath have been published by B&NES Council and will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet on 8th November.
The recommendations, if approved, would mean that new applications to convert properties into HMOs would be refused if more than 10% of properties in the local area are already Houses of Multiple Occupation.
In addition, the Council also plans to adopt a new policy that would prevent a residential non-HMO property from being ‘sandwiched’ between two HMOs.
The move follows six weeks of public consultation which began on 4th September and was in response to increasing concerns among residents about the continuing concentration and growth of HMOs in some neighbourhoods of the city.
Councillor Bob Goodman (Conservative, Combe Down), Cabinet Member for Development and Neighbourhoods, said: “This new policy approach is responding to the real concerns residents in Bath have about the proliferation and concentration of HMOs in parts of our city.
By putting policies in place to better control the growth and distribution of HMOs, our aim is to ensure we have a balance of types of housing within our local communities.
“We recognise that HMOs have a role to play in our city’s housing stock by providing accommodation not just for students, but also professionals.
“However, they should not be allowed to dominate local areas at the expense of other types of housing. This proposed new policy will mean that in the future the Council will be able to prevent HMOs from taking up more than 10 per cent of an area’s housing stock .
“Furthermore, this new policy would give the Council powers to refuse planning permission for a new HMO if it would result in a property being sandwiched between two houses of multiple occupation.”
Alongside the new policy on HMOs, the Council is also currently undertaking a piece of work looking at the issue of Dedicated Student Accommodation in the city, including an assessment of the need and supply of student accommodation in the city.
Councillor Goodman added: “There has been increasing concern among residents over recent years about the significant growth in Dedicated Student Accommodation in the city and so the Council is looking at what powers are available to give greater control of both the amount and location of new student accommodation.
“The Council is currently undertaking an assessment of student accommodation needs and supply that will form part of the development of a new Local Plan.
“As with HMOs, it’s important that we ensure there is the right balance of housing types in the city that includes much-needed new affordable and family homes, not just student accommodation.
“These policies are not about the Council being anti-private tenancies, they are simply about ensuring the right balance and mix of housing the city.
“We recognise that private rented accommodation and HMOs provide affordable housing for lots of people. We therefore feel that we have come up with a common sense plan that will protect the needs of all residents and enable us to maintain sustainable and harmonious communities.”
Results from the Council’s consultation showed that:
In total, 98 per cent of those consulted by the Council about HMOs earlier this year agreed with a reduction in the current threshold of 25 per cent HMOs, while 49 per cent thought that the new figure should be set at 10 per cent.
Some of those consulted who lived in areas such as Oldfield Park, where there are a large number of HMOs, said that they felt they had “lost their communities.”
Concerns raised through the consultation by residents about HMOs included noise, rubbish and untended gardens which were seen as reducing the attractiveness of an area.
In addition, many HMOs were thought to be occupied by students which meant many properties were empty for a substantial part of the year with students only living in a local community for a short while and contributing little to it while they were living there.
Should the Cabinet agree the recommendations, the SPD will be adopted and become part of the Council’s policy framework. It will form the basis for determining planning applications.