Housing commission recommends HMO ban across St Andrews


A new report has recommended that the HMO ban that currently exists in the centre of St Andrews should be extended to include other parts of the town.

The report, the result of a lengthy study by the St Andrews Town Commission on Housing, also reveals that the University is staunchly opposed to the ban and has sought for it to be lifted altogether, calling it “a stand-off between activists, students and the University”.

An HMO licence is required for properties with three or more residents who are unrelated, which means they are needed for many student flats. A moratorium on HMOs has existed in the centre of the town since June 2011, meaning no new licences can be granted within this area.

The report recommends that Fife Council should carry out a study of the “studentification” of St Andrews in cooperation with “key local stakeholders”. This will include examining the total number of rented properties in the town, including both HMO properties and one- and two-bedroom properties that do not require an HMO. The study will aim to establish a “yardstick” for HMO density, possibly on a street-by-street basis.

The Commission goes on to say that: “Pending the conclusion of the study, the current moratorium on HMOs [should] remain in place and given the approval for more privately funded accommodation (241 beds) at the Memorial Hospital site, serious consideration [should] be given to extending the moratorium to other parts of St Andrews with high concentrations of HMOs.”

The report also suggests that a maximum level should be set for the number of student HMO occupants on streets with an “overprovision” of the licences. If this level were reached, any further HMOs would be refused. It concludes that Fife Council should impose restrictions on the renewal of existing HMO licenses until a more comprehensive policy is established.

The Commission does, however, recommend that “the development of purpose-built student accommodation whether by the University or the private sector should be supported by all stakeholders” and has committed to its members working together to address accommodation pressure in the town. The parties will establish a new body to continue to work on the issue.

A University spokesperson said: “The report represents the start of a process, not the end. It includes some recommendations with which we agree, and others with which we profoundly disagree. The most important thing is that all parties will now work together to address St Andrews’ housing needs. That is a first for the town, and we hope through collaboration and compromise that innovative solutions can be found.”

The Commission is made up of representatives from the Confederation of St Andrews Residents’ Associations, the University of St Andrews, the Students’ Association, the St Andrews Preservation Trust, the local members of Fife Council, and the St Andrews Community Council. Its 132-page report follows a comprehensive, independent study into accommodation for both local residents and students in the town.

Earlier this year there were calls to extend the moratorium to other parts of St Andrews when some residents argued that students were “unruly” and their behaviour was often “unnerving for local residents.” This led to criticism from the Students’ Association president, Chloe Hill, that residents were attempting to “drive students out” of the town.

Ms Hill declined to comment for this article.


  1. Considering the blatant antipathy towards the student body by way of completely disregarding the issues that they face, I’m surprised the St Andrews Town Commission didn’t also recommend getting rid of the University altogether. The mismatch between available supply and student demand for housing is absurd, results in awful accommodation for extortionate prices, and makes this recommendation insulting. And on top of that, to recommend that the University simply construct more accommodation is to attempt to wash their hands clean of the whole affair and continue to ignore the issue – they know full well that the University doesn’t have the money to build all the space necessary to meet demand. While the plight of students may not be an issue that concerns them much at all, I hope the University stands up for its student body and doesn’t allow ‘key local stakeholders’ to exacerbate this housing squeeze and grasp us tighter and tighter.

  2. What locals need to understand is that without the students their property prices would fall, and I am pretty sure they don’t want that, do they? Residents want to have their cake and eat it, they want to benefit from all the income that students bring to the town, the prestige that comes from having a world class University, but they don’t want the students living anywhere near them. It is as classic an example of Nimbyism as you could ever imagine. There is a very real housing shortage. I remember looking at a studio flat on South Street last summer, it was small, didn’t have much light, didn’t look as if it had been decorated in about 20 years, but it was in a great location. The rent was £700 per month plus bills. Anywhere else, in any other Scottish town you would have been lucky to get £300 for such a dump. I am sure there are plenty of students who in similar examples of average/poor accommodation which is extortionately priced. But they pay it, they have little choice.

    The fact is that the University needs to get bigger, it needs to attract more students, it needs to grow. This is the inevitable trajectory of the University, and anyone who pretends otherwise is living in denial. This will probably happen gradually, as it has been in recent years, but putting blanket moratoriums on HMO’s is not the answer, it is evading the problem.

    For a start if you want more students to live outside the town you could start by lowering bus fares, which are extortionate. The crazyness that you can get a student return to Dundee but not to Leuchars, Guardbidge, Balmulo, Crail etc. needs to end. It is just a blatant rip-off.

    The University is at fault also. It has nothing more than the most perfunctory commitment to affordable housing, and to an extent I can understand why. The university simply does not want to offer rooms below market value which is what they would need to do in order to offer more affordability.

    St Andrews needs more student accommodation. All the stakeholders need to get together, recognise this, and make it happen. The NIMBY attitude of the Community Council etc. needs to end. The University will expand no matter how much they moan about it. Equally the University needs to be much more pro-active in terms of student accommodation, but as has been pointed out we just don’t have the money. St Andrews is a poor University, I mean look at the feeble amount raised by the 600th Anniversary. Aberdeen spent more than that on just their library!


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