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Houses of Multiple Occupation
The battle lines have been drawn for a new age battle of York, although this time hopefully it will cost no one their lives. Of course, there was no battle of York in the English civil war, only the American one, but many civil war battles did take place in and around the city. This time, instead of roundheads and cavaliers (Parliamentarians and Royalists) fighting on battle fields, it is landlords who are up in arms at a council proposal that would force all landlords considering making a property available as student accommodation will need planning permission.
A house in multiple occupation (HMO), - which is frequently what landlords go for in terms of developing/converting properties into student accommodation - was classified as a property occupied by five or more people using shared facilities and over three floors. This tightly cast net meant very few landlords needed planning permission in order to go ahead with a UK HMO.
This changed in April 2010, when smaller houses that were to be converted for student use would be classified as small HMOs and would need planning permission. But this was quickly changed again, with the Permitted Development Right amendment, and landlords could again go HMO on a small scale without needing planning permission.
Now the local York council wants to override the UK legislation by imposing what is called an Article 4 Direction, which basically gives the council the right to order planning permission be sought to change occupational use of any property no matter the change.
Those close to the issue believe that the proposal is aimed specifically at student accommodation because of complaints about student populous causing problems in the local community. These communities allege that the presence of large numbers of students raises the crime levels, late-night disturbances, and littering in their area.
The University spokesperson has refuted this allegation, claiming: “We believe that City of York Council already has sufficient powers under the 2004 Housing Act to tackle problems caused by the very small minority of irresponsible landlords, tenants and/or mismanaged properties.”
But he goes onto make the absolute golden point. A Direction 4 order does not act retrospectively, so any problem student homes will be left untouched by the new system, but with fewer new properties being approved, they will have nowhere to move them on to.
Tim Ellis, YUSU President, also commented on the Council direction jointly with the President of York St John Students’ Union in a blog post.
“We believe an Article 4 Direction will be extremely damaging for our off-campus students who are likely to be forced further away from the university and also that this is a discriminatory piece of legislation that is detrimental to students and York as a whole.
“We also firmly believe that it will not address the issues that are being used to justify its’ implementation.”
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