Councillors call for threshold on HMOs in St Andrews

Currently, 17 per cent of domestic dwellings in the central conservation area are HMOs.
Currently, 17 per cent of domestic dwellings in the central conservation area are HMOs.

The percentage of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in St Andrews should not increase, councillors have recommended.

Following a debate on the issue of HMOs in St Andrews at this week’s North East Fife Area Committee, councillors voted to recommend to Fife Council’s Community and Housing Services Committee a new threshold policy on HMOs be introduced in the town, as part of HMO housing overprovision policy for Fife.

The recommendation, put forward by Cllr Brian Thomson, states that the thresholds should be set at 17 per cent for the central conservation area, five per cent for the south east section of the town, and three per cent for the west section of the town.

These are the current percentages of HMOs in the three zones.

According to the latest Fife Council figures, 407 of 2443 domestic dwellings in the central conservation area are HMOs; 119 of 2359 in the south east section of the town; and 51 of 1858 in the west section of the town.

It had been recommended to councillors that threshold bands be introduced for the three areas, allowing some room for growth.

However, this was rejected by councillors.

Eight of the 13 councillors who voted, voted in favour of Cllr Thomson’s amended recommendation.

Cllr Jane Ann Liston’s proposed amendment – which included a 22 per cent threshold in the central conservation area – received three votes.

Two councillors voted in favour of Cllr Tim Brett’s call for the decision to be deferred until further talks had been held with the University of St Andrews about its plans for development.

As well as recommending a new threshold, Cllr Thomson’s recommendation also asks the Community and Housing Services Committee to note several points.

These included “the significant increase in the number of students studying at the University of St Andrews over the last 30 years, and the apparent decline, during the same period, of the number of permanent residents in St Andrews” .

It also asks the committee to note “there is currently no shortage of accommodation for students in St Andrews” and “there is a significant shortage of affordable housing in St Andrews, with around 370 households currently registered for social housing having St Andrews as their first choice of location”.

Putting forward his amendment to councillors, Cllr Thomson said: “We have a major problem related to a lack of affordable housing and social housing”.

And while speaking about the declining resident population, he added: “The reason has to be a lack of affordable housing”.

Prior to the debate, the Confederation of St Andrews Residents Associations urged councillors to set the threshold limits at the current levels.

A moratorium on HMOs in the conservation area was introduced in 2011. However, research by North Star Consulting and Research found that the number of HMOs in the area had risen by 7.6 per cent since then.