Majority oppose St Andrews town centre HMO ban

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FIFE Council’s proposal to refuse planning permission for future House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) applications in St Andrews has generated a big response.

The policy is currently out for consultation and, with less than two weeks left for comments to be submitted, the council’s website has received more than 40 respponses so far.

A final draft of the policy, which would only apply to the town centre, will be drawn up incorporating the public’s response before the issue is considered again by the north east Fife area committee in May.

However, the vast majority of comments posted on the council’s website earlier this week were opposed to the ban, with 33 comments against the policy and only seven in favour.

Alan Henderson, business development manager at Kingdom Housing, pointed to ‘‘a lack of evidence’’ demonstrating that HMOs prevent affordable housing becoming available for owner-occupation.

“It is somewhat concerning that Fife Council admits that the impact of the policy is unclear - acknowledging, however, that the demand is simply likely to move elsewhere,” he wrote.

“You need to specify how the policy is to be reviewed after two years - will you simply analyse the pattern of applications which are approved and refused, or will you undertake an examination of the wider socio-economic impact? Perhaps the latter ought to be have been undertaken prior to policy formulation.

“The overall impression is of an effort to address the effect rather than the cause of the difficulties facing the housing market in St Andrews.’’

Many of the people opposing the ban question whether it will have the desired effect of freeing up properties for young families.

Michael Foote, of Town and Gown Property Letting Services, believes the proposed policy is already having an impact on the St Andrews housing market with one and two--bedroom properties becoming more attractive for investors in the rental market.

He has also asked the council to consider whether the policy might lead to more properties being bought as holiday homes and used for only three or four months per year?

“With the difficulty in guaranteeing that a purchase to buy a four bedroom property will obtain HMO status, it is much easier for the investor to purchase two two-bedroom flats giving a rental income of only £150 per month less,” he explained.

“In addition, the owner does not have to spend up to £10,000 to become HMO compliant, nor do they have to renew their licence every three years. And it is far simpler to sell a two bedroom flat than a four bedroom HMO with all the question marks the council has laid over whether or not it can be used.

“This is already happening, you can see it in the market already.”

Lt Col (Retd) John Newman-Carter believes the university should house more students and this would free up housing for owner occupiers.

“There has to be a balance in such matters and I strongly believe that the proposal to cap HMOs is a good thing,” he added

“Not to do so will eventually lead to the demise of the town for residents. The university should take more responsibility for accommodating students on it’s own premises and it cannot be allowed to expand forever.”