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.