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York Families Could Be Allowed To Rent Student Houses Under New Plans.


6:57am 7th January 2014

City of York Council's Cabinet will be asked to approve the findings from a  review which highlights some of the challenges facing the shared housing sector in York, at a meeting today (7 January2014), which follows recommendations from the Local Plan Working Group in December asking Cabinet to approve the report.

City of York Council carried out a review of the Controlling the Concentration of Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) Supplementary Planning Document which was introduced  following a city wide Article 4 Direction implemented on 20 April 2012, which requires a planning application to be submitted to change a property into a HMO.

The Article 4 Direction means that planning permission is required from City of York Council when someone in the main urban area wants to change an ordinary house to a house of multiple occupation, where there would be between three and six unrelated residents.

The use of Article 4 Direction powers requiring planning approval for new HMOs is widespread nationally. Cities including Leeds, Portsmouth and Manchester have confirmed Directions, and other towns and cities including Oxford have adopted coordinated housing and planning initiatives, including Article 4 powers to manage shared housing in their areas.

Whilst shared accommodation is regarded as a valuable asset to the city, say the council, there has been national and local debate about the wider impact that concentrated student households and other households using shared accommodation have on the wider housing market, and on loss of local amenities such as shops and  schools.

A Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) was prepared and subsequently approved to provide guidance on how planning applications for change of use to HMO arising from the Article 4 direction will be determined. The aim of this document was, say the council, to continue to provide HMO accommodation to meet the city’s housing needs, but also to manage the supply of new HMOs to avoid high concentrations of this use in an area.

City of York Council add that as this was a new area of planning policy following changes to government legislation, it was requested by Cabinet Members that the SPD be reviewed and a report outlining the review be reported back to the Local Plan Working Group and Cabinet.

The Council add that in December, members of the working group received an update on the review, which specifically looked at whether the approach was working, whether there were any elements that weren’t working, what impact the SPD had on a range of stakeholders, the approach to data collection of known HMOs to ensure it is the most appropriate, open and transparent and what was happening elsewhere to determine best practice.

Cabinet member Dave Merrett, Cabinet Member for Transport, Planning and Sustainability, said: “Cabinet asked for a review and a report outlining this to be taken back to the Local Plan Working Group so we welcome this paper.

“It shows we struck a sensible balance on the issue of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), offering a policy that helps to ensure the location of HMOs in York is managed, maintains balanced communities, and protects more existing family accommodation for that purpose in areas under pressure for conversion to HMOs. However one adjustment is proposed to give existing HMO owners more flexibility on HMO usage and make even better provision for families.”

City of York Council say that this was highlighted through the review which outlines that in some instances landlords have been unwilling to rent properties to families to avoid losing the HMO status of their properties, and concerns from postgraduate students with families.

This has meant, add the council that some families have found it difficult to find rented accommodation since the introduction of the SPD. To address this, say the council, the report recommends members approve a new section should be added to the SPD to inform HMO landlords of the opportunity to apply for a flexible permission that will allow continuous occupation of a property as to whether a family dwelling or an HMO let to unrelated tenants. This should, they add, ensure that families are not marginalised in this part of the private rented market and are able to find appropriate accommodation.

Cabinet will be asked to approve the contents in the report and proposed limited amendments to the SPD so it can continue to be used effectively to support the emerging Local Plan and the Article 4 Direction, say City of York Council.

Since April 2012 there have been 60 applications regarding HMO change of use. For full details of the distribution of applications view the report at http://democracy.york.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=128&MId=8075

Cabinet will take place on Tuesday 7 January at West Offices from 5.30pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch live online from:  www.york.gov.uk/webcasts . To view the Cabinet reports visit http://democracy.york.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=733&MId=7644

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