Fife Council’s executive committee has agreed to maintain the existing moratorium on houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs) in St Andrews’ town centre.
Within the conservation zone – roughly bounded by the North Haugh and Kinnessburn Road – HMOs will be limited to those currently in existence until June 2016. This is a continuation of the moratorium put in place in 2011. According to Fife Council, this extension will allow more time for investigations into the effects of HMO limitations on the town.
Lesley Laird, Fife Council’s deputy leader and executive spokesperson for business enterprise, economy and planning, said: “HMOs exist across Fife but there is a long history of discussion on the subject in St Andrews; given its role as a university town.
“The agreement to extend the policy control in central St Andrews will give time for the Council’s planning and housing roles to be considered together to meet our statutory duties and understand how the policy affects both the supply of homes in the town and local amenity.”
The decision was made in light of a variety of studies carried out in recent months by Fife Council, the University and the local community.
According to the St Andrews Town Commission on Housing (SATCoH), in a survey carried out by residents, 85 per cent of residences inside the central conservation area are occupied by students. In 2013 there were 900 HMOs in St Andrews and 385 of these were within the conservation zone.
The Council’s executive committee report said: “There remains a perception from representatives of some of the residents in central St Andrews that the problems caused by the concentration of HMOs in the area are unacceptable, and lead to a significant diminution of quality of life for residents, with the potential to impact negatively on the attractiveness of St Andrews as a tourist destination.”
SATCoH have argued that the moratorium should be extended over the whole of St Andrews, but other reports suggest that the limitations on HMOs have had a negative impact on the town. A report by the University of St Andrews’ Centre for Housing Research showed that the moratorium has pushed student housing into more suburban areas, increasing property prices and reducing the number of family homes in these areas. This assertion is supported by figures published by Fife Council, showing that the number of non-University-owned HMOs outside of the conservation area increased by 56 per cent between 2009 and 2013.
The report further stated that estate agencies’ “clear view is that the moratorium has skewed the housing market”, with an increase in the price of two bedroom properties (which can be let to students without a HMO license) as a direct result of the moratorium.
According to the same report, the Students’ Association feels that the effects of the moratorium are “pressuring students” who face fewer options and increased rents.
It concluded that the three-year extension on the moratorium was necessary to investigate further and settle these disputes. It said: “A more holistic view of HMOs across the planning and licensing regimes can then be taken, including recommending where appropriate policy interventions may be relevant.”