Council urged to “rethink” Fife town’s HMO policy

Fife Council commissioned an assessment into its HMO policy in St Andrews in 2016.
Fife Council commissioned an assessment into its HMO policy in St Andrews in 2016.

An independent assessment into the impact of the growth of student occupied HMOs in St Andrews, claims they could be having a detrimental effect on the town.

The findings of Dr Ross Brown’s study suggest that the growing levels of ‘studentification’ in private residential areas and HMO (houses of multiple occupancy) policy changes could be having a significant impact on residential areas of the town.

It says that this could lead to lower levels of owner-occupied properties, restrictions in housing for local residents, house price inflation, and an increased tension between the university and local residents.

The study follows data released last month, which showed that since 2011 Fife Council had issued 753 HMO licences within St Andrews.

Speaking about the findings, Dr Brown said: “Large concentration of HMO within the local housing markets can have highly complex and counterproductive effects for local communities.”

He added that this could have: “Longer term implications for the long viability of public services, causing feels of anxiety and disempowerment with in the local community.”

Dr Brown said the partial moratorium implemented by Fife Council could be having “unintended negative consequences” and called for an “urgent rethink”.

He said: “It should impose a comprehensive moratorium across the whole of the town on new HMOs. With the exception of student housing and halls of residence, no further private sector HMOs should be licenced until the council has devised a proper, coherent and evidence-based planning and housing strategy for St Andrews.”

Helen Wilkie, housing manager for Fife Council, said: “A moratorium was introduced in St Andrews town centre in 2011 and in 2016 we commissioned an independent assessment of this approach.

“In January we’ll be holding a workshop with councillors to look at the consultants’ findings and explore options for the future. We hope to report to committee with proposals as early as February.”

The council added that while the moratorium means no new planning applications for HMOs are granted in the town centre, existing licences have to be renewed every three years or re-issued to new owners who buy a licenced property.

Each licence that’s issued is classed as a new licence even if it is for an existing house of multiple occupation.