HMO licensing cuts proposed

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Fife Council is currently discussing a proposal that would limit the amount of HMO licenses issued to properties in the centre of St Andrews.

If accepted, the proposal would limit the number of students living in the centre of town.
HMO (House of Multiple Occupancy) licenses are legally required for any property inhabited by three or more unrelated people. The license is intended as a safety measure to ensure that properties meet certain safety standards.

A number of conditions must be met in order for an HMO license to be issued. Firstly, the landlord must be considered a fit and proper person to hold a license. Secondly, proper tenancy agreements must be in place. Thirdly, physical conditions regarding safety and adequate facilities must be met.

Fife Council’s proposal is based on the creation of a Central Conservation Area, consisting of the Scores, North St, Market St, South St and Lade Braes, in which no future HMO licenses would be awarded.

The proposal claims that the St Andrews community can be “eroded by the more transient nature of occupants who do not have a long term commitment to the area.” The Council’s argument is that students who are only in St Andrews for a small period of time put pressures on parking, traffic, gardens, pedestrian movement and noise in St Andrews as well as undermining the community. Furthermore, student demand for accommodation increases prices and makes them unaffordable for local families.

The Students’ Association has criticised the proposal, arguing that it would put students at risk of exploitation by landlords as well as being detrimental to the local community. Director of Representation Siena Parker sees the proposal as a form of “naïve engineering of the housing market.”

Parker argues that the proposal would put students at risk, as some landlords may go ahead and rent without a license. Since September 2010 the Students’ Association has already uncovered six landlords without HMO licenses in St Andrews.

The proposal would also hit poorer students more. As costs within the centre of town are already so high, many students seek affordable housing farther away. However, if HMO licenses are limited the demand for accommodation will be pushed to the outskirts of St Andrews, thus raising prices even more. St Andrews’ average weekly rent, at £80, is already £20 more than the national average.

Furthermore, Parker adds that the Students’ Association resents the idea that students are not contributing to the community. She points to the Student Voluntary Service, the Charities Campaign and the Student Representative Council as student groups that actively work to build links with the local community. The recent economic report commissioned by Quaestor Derek Watson also showed that student spending in St Andrews contributes an annual £40 million to the local economy.

According to Parker, the next step for the Students’ Association is to begin “involving the student body more widely to help fight the proposal” by asking students to write to local councillors to “prove that students actually care.”

She added that the Students’ Association might even run its own candidate in council elections next year.

Andreea Nemes

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