Speaking from the British Property Federation (BPF) annual housing conference, chief executive Liz Peace said: "At precisely the time where the Government should be doing all it can to support housing and support students, it’s twisting the knife in the recovery of the housing market. This won’t just affect students however, it will hit key workers and other young or low-paid people who benefit from being able to cheaply rent a shared home."
HMOs play a vital role in providing much needed housing for students, young professionals and those on low incomes who rely on this type of affordable accommodation. Large cities across the UK greatly depend on shared housing as a first step. By making it more difficult and costly for landlords to provide this type of accommodation, these measures will reduce choice for tenants and increase pressure on local authority housing lists.
The plans have been universally derided as a "nimby’s charter" and opposed by all landlords groups and the Conservatives. But even the Government’s own review – carried out by Sheffield University academic Julie Rugg, condemned the plans as an "extreme response" which "local authorities are ill-equipped to handle".
This week’s proposals will also allow councils to designate "hot spots" where landlords will not be able to rent out shared homes. This will be able to be done without central government permission, fuelling concerns from all sides.
Ministers want to clampdown on HMOs as a part of a knee-jerk reaction to so-called "studentification".
Problems with anti-social behaviour have arisen around high concentrations of HMOs, drawing complaints from locals about litter, noise and towns becoming empty during holidays.
Housing Minister John Healey’s measures could allow councils to clear students out of residential areas. But immigrants, young professionals and others who rent HMOs will also be affected.
Property experts say that using planning laws to restrict HMOs will raise rents and drive out the students, young professionals and immigrants who rent them because they are affordable.
Local businesses, particularly those which rely on student custom, also face being hit if students are driven out.
The move is also a wholesale contradiction of social integration policies, which the Government has promoted to ensure that "sink estates" are not recreated.
The NUS has joined forces with property groups in condemning the plans as a "Nimby’s Charter" which would create student ghettos and dictate where people live based on their income.
The British Property Federation (BPF), National Landlords Association, Residential Landlords Association, and NUS led a very pubic campaign last year, saying the proposals would not help and that similar moves failed in Northern Ireland.
The property industry wants a local management option to tackle the problems without further legislation. This could take into account local circumstances and offer a cost-effective solution to the problem.
National Landlords Association Chairman David Salusbury said: "The Government has bowed to a small minority who shouted the loudest. It has ignored the vital role these homes play in contributing to vibrant and mixed communities. These plans will do nothing to improve housing or increase choice for tenants but are more about placating local protest groups in certain parts of the country.
"If the Government was really interested in dealing with anti-social behaviour and property standards in the small minority of places where they are an issue, they would have taken up the NLA’s calls for more targeted local management action by councils working with landlords in their areas.
"What we have before us is draconian and is quite simply using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. In addition, we can expect local authority planning departments to be swamped under increasing workloads owing to these new measures. This entire package will not contribute to the vibrant rental market the Government says it wants."
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