Yesterday, a motion was passed by the NE Fife Area Committee to recommend to the deciding committee, that a threshold be placed on the number of HMOs (Housing in Multiple Occupancy) in St Andrews.
The motion recommended that the number of HMOs as currently stands in St Andrews remains the same.
The threshold would be set at the current percentage of existing HMO properties in the respective three zones (Zone 1 – Central Conservation Area 17%, Zone 2 – East 5%, and Zone 3 – West 3%).
Throughout the meeting, at which the Association President Lewis Wood had furthermore not been allowed to speak at, he took to Twitter to advocate his frustration.
They’re currently voting. Btw we’re not allowed to speak at this meeting, so I’m just here like ???
— Lewis Wood (@StAPresident) May 9, 2018
Mr Wood said that the meeting was “shameful”, as he felt that student opinions were being neglected. He further asserted that not all councillors were responsible, nonetheless they accounted for a “vast majority”.
A house in multiple occupation is a property rented out by at least three people who are not from one ‘household’, for example a family, but share facilities like the bathroom and kitchen.
Thus, an HMO license is required by landlords in order to let to the majority of students in private accommodation.
I cannot make it clear enough how little respect was paid to the students at the meeting today. I think it’s really shameful.
— Lewis Wood (@StAPresident) May 9, 2018
In an open letter to students following the vote, Mr Wood said, “As student number increase from 9,000 to 10,000 over the next few years, increased pressure on the portfolio of accommodation in St Andrews is inevitable.”
“The decision taken [yesterday] was not taken in a communal spirit. It was a decision that took into account the desires of ‘local’ people only, and not the asks of a student body struggling with an expensive and poor-quality private accommodation sector.”
He continued, “The HMO moratorium has not worked to achieve the harmonious or balanced community that it was imposed to create. It has done nothing to change the composition of the town, and instead, has only exacerbated accommodation issues for students.
“I have frequently stated that I would welcome legislation that would be nuanced and comprehensive enough to address the needs of both students and local residents, and have consistently striven for this discourse.”
no shortage of university accommodation
Brian Thomson, St Andrews Labour councillor and main proposer of the motion said that there was “no shortage” of University accommodation for students.
An amendment to the motion was put forward by Liberal Democrat Councillor for St Andrews, Jane Ann Liston, which would have set a threshold of 22% in Zone 1, 6% in Zone 2 and 4% in Zone 3, thereby providing more licences in the town centre. However, this amendment only received the backing of Conservative councillor Dominic Nolan, who seconded the amendment and the SNP councillor in St Andrews, Ann Verner.
Of yesterday’s decision, Cllr Nolan said “I am disappointed at the decision to impose a threshold on HMO properties at its current level. Some level of over provision policy is needed to respect all sections of our community but I believe this policy will place further pressure on the town’s housing stock by encouraging landlords to let out an increasing number of two-bed properties and so leave less homes available to a permanent population.”
He continued, “I believe a level of flexibility in HMO provision and an increased threshold would have been more appropriate to make full use of the existing housing stock which is already occupied by students. This will also see rents remain at excessive levels where landlords must collect the same amount of rent from a house which does not have the intended the number of occupants.
“I believe it is also worth noting that 3 of the 4 St Andrews Councillors saw that the potential for a slight increase in HMO numbers was appropriate and that it was largely out of town Councillors who have chosen to implement this policy.”
lack of regard for students
Speaking on behalf of the Rector’s Committee, current Rector’s Assessor Camilla Duke also expressed her disappointment at the council’s decision, saying “we are extremely disappointed to see Fife Council’s lack of regard for the student population, which makes up a significant portion of this town. The HMO cap prevents many students from finding affordable housing, which is an issue we are deeply invested in.
“The Rector’s Committee will be exploring all avenues to open up a conversation between the university, students, and the local Councillors. Access to quality, affordable housing is imperative to the student experience at St Andrews and we will be doing everything in our power to ensure equal access to housing for all students.”
Mr Wood also urged students to contact their local councillors and express their opinions, as well as to sign a petition to remove the HMO moratorium.