Town versus gown struggle continues over HMO ban

Students and members of the community have called for a removal of the HMO ban, launching a petition with over 789 signatures as of Friday 6 April. The petition is aimed at the next Fife Council Review on Wednesday 9 May, where the future of the HMO ban will be discussed.

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Photo: Ranald Dinsdale

Students and members of the community have called for a removal of the HMO ban, launching a petition with over 789 signatures as of Friday 6 April, and circulating it over social media.

The Change.org petition page cites Fife Today’s findings, through the Student Living Index, which found that St Andrews students pay the highest rents in Scotland and third most in the UK, with an average monthly rent of £509.44, while the average rent spent across the 35 universities of the survey at £448 per month.

The petition addresses the increase of University accommodation, as new halls are due to open in the coming years. However, the petition also asserts that this will only account for the increase in student population, leaving the demand for private accommodations just as high.

The Students’ Association states on Change.org, “To maintain the HMO ban, or to expand it across the town, is to completely invalidate the experience and rights of students in St Andrews. We do not want to take over the town. We do not want to force out families. We want affordable, reasonable private accommodation that works for all people in St Andrews.”

The petition is aimed at the next Fife Council Review on Wednesday 9 May, where the future of the HMO ban will be discussed.

The newly elected Rector, Srdja Popovic, has maintained that increasing the amount of affordable housing is a goal during this term.

A report was commissioned by the Fife Council to address the effectiveness of the ban, completed by North Star Consulting. Amid the completion of the report, the verdict was that the ban should be lifted as it is not accomplishing what it was intended to do.

However, there is controversy amongst townspeople that the University should be handling student housing issues and the town should focus on families that need housing assistance.

Brian Thomson, a St Andrews councillor, stated to The Courier, “We have enough HMOs in the town. The onus should be on the university to deal with any shortage of accommodation, which they are doing, making a huge investment right now. We have more than 600 families on the housing waiting list, and increasing HMOs is exacerbating that problem.”

Dr Ross Brown, a reader for the St Andrews School of Management, has been studying social and economic impacts of student housing on the town.

A University news article defined the term “studentification” as “a complex socio-spatial process resulting from the major influx of students into specific spatial localities in certain university towns and neighborhoods.”

Dr Brown indicated in the article that this can be attributed heavily to the HMO ban.

The University raised concerns when the ban was first put in place, and many of the issues they indicated would happen can now be seen in Dr Brown’s study.

According to Dr Brown, “The Council needs an urgent rethink. Given the gravity of the situation it should impose a comprehensive moratorium across the whole of the town on new HMOs. With the exception of dedicated student housing and university halls of residence, no further private sector HMOs should be licensed until the Council has devised a proper, coherent and evidence-based planning and housing strategy for the town of St Andrews.”

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