The government has proposed changes to current planning laws in an attempt to disperse student communities and end the ‘studentification’ of university towns.
On 26th September the housing and planning minister, Caroline Flint, published a report suggesting methods to reduce the accumulation of student houses in one area which then becomes empty during academic holidays. It is likely that these ideas will be put to Parliament in a housing green paper due to be published later in the year.
Flint stated: ‘It is not acceptable that current rental practices allow unplanned student enclaves to evolve to such an extent that local communities are left living as ghost towns following the summer student exodus. The report has identified a series of proven steps councils and universities can take to reduce the dramatic effects of ‘studentification’, where houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) cluster too closely together.’
Under current legislation an HMO can be defined as ‘any dwelling of three or more people from two or more households’, and under stricter planning laws councils would be able to determine the frequency of HMOs in any given area, powers which have already been enforced in Northern Ireland.
President of the National Union of Students, Wes Streeting, expressed alarm at the idea of students being displaced in the middle of a housing crisis. He said: ‘We are also worried that added bureaucracy will discourage landlords from the HMO market.’
By Susannah Sconce