Shared housing under the knife

Nia Williams

January 28, 2010

In a statement, Housing and Planning Minister John Healey MP revealed plans which will require planning permission for new shared housing where three or more unrelated people live together. Twenty per cent of private-rented sector properties are shared, a figure which is rising year-on-year.

HMOs play a vital role in providing much needed housing for students, young professionals and those on low incomes who rely on this type of affordable accommodation. Large cities across the UK greatly depend on shared housing as a first step. By making it more difficult and costly for landlords to provide this type of accommodation, these measures will reduce choice for tenants and increase pressure on local authority housing lists.

The Rugg Review, an independent review of the private-rented sector commissioned by the Government, already dismissed these changes to the planning system as an ‘extreme response’ which ‘local authorities are ill-equipped to handle’. The Government clearly has no idea of the impact of this measure on the housing market, according to the NLA.

Of equal concern, the statement also outlined proposals to give councils general consent to introduce licensing schemes without seeking permission from central Government in so-called ‘hotspot areas’. The current rules require local authorities to justify to the Secretary of State the need for any new licensing scheme. These proposals will result in a ‘nimby’s charter’ which will create ‘no-go’ areas for landlords, students, young professionals, low income families, migrant workers and a wide range of other groups who rely upon shared private-rented sector housing.

David Salusbury, chairman, NLA, in criticising these measures, said: “The Government has bowed to a small minority who shouted the loudest. It has ignored the vital role these homes play in contributing to vibrant and mixed communities. These plans will do nothing to improve housing or increase choice for tenants but are more about placating local protest groups in certain parts of the country.

“If the Government was really interested in dealing with anti-social behaviour and property standards in the small minority of places where they are an issue, they would have taken up the NLA’s calls for more targeted local management action by councils working with landlords in their areas.

“What we have before us is draconian and is quite simply using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. In addition, we can expect local authority planning departments to be swamped under increasing workloads owing to these new measures. This entire package will not contribute to the vibrant rental market the Government says it wants.”

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