Majority against St Andrews HMO ban

04.01.10 Scotland celebrates Five years of Freedom of Information. Kevin Dunion, Sottish Information Commissioner launched a campaign to mark 5 years of Fredom of Information on Princes Street, Edinburgh Pic Neil Hanna
04.01.10 Scotland celebrates Five years of Freedom of Information. Kevin Dunion, Sottish Information Commissioner launched a campaign to mark 5 years of Fredom of Information on Princes Street, Edinburgh Pic Neil Hanna

‘AN unacceptable face of capitalism’ is how St Andrews Community Council has described the situation of people being priced out of living in their home town.

Consultation on Fife Council’s controversial proposal to refuse planning permission for any further HMOs in the town centre has now closed.

And the issue has sparked huge debate, with 128 responses - most of which oppose an HMO ban (Houses in Multiple Occupancy) - posted on the council’s website.

However, in backing the principle of a ban, the community council has advocated an agreement between Fife Council and St Andrews University over the number of off-campus students housed around the town as a medium-term solution.

It has acknowledged the difference of opinion in the town over HMOs but says, on balance, that community councillors are minded to endorse the principle of a cap, subject to modifications.

The submission stated: “It is indeed a major cause of concern that the proportion of young families in the town is decreasing, and that young people who have grown up here are now usually unable to afford accommodation within the town.

‘‘Action is certainly needed to address this situation.

“You do not need to believe in old Soviet-style policies to regard the way that St Andreans have been priced out of their own housing market as an unacceptable face of capitalism.”

St Andrews University rector Kevin Dunion, pictured, posted his thoughts, saying the cost and availability of accommodation for students had been the most frequently raised subject he had to deal with.

But he did not believe the council’s proposal addressed many of the issues involved and questioned how the policy, if implemented, would be assessed when it was reviewed after two years.

“Would it fail if house prices did not fall in the centre of town or if a number of homes currently registered as HMOs were not let to families?“ he asked.

“Would it succeed or fail if the number of HMO applications outside the central core increased or if house prices in the outer area rose?

“I do think the concerns over unintended consequences of the proposed policy have to be addressed and the criteria for success made clear at the outset.”

St Andrews Students’ Association is opposed to the policy and outgoing president, Owen Wilton, has said the student group would consider fielding a candidate at next year’s local elections if none of the candidates supported their position.

President-elect, Patrick O’Hare, who has pledged to oppose any attempts to restrict the number of HMOs and offered to work with the council to find a solution for affordable accommodation in the town for students as well as low-income families, added: “An HMO cap is not a solution for this problem.’’

Comments will now be considered by the council before a final draft is put before councillors in the next few months.