Debate over proposed limit to HMOs in St Andrews

The David Russell accommodation in St Andrews
The David Russell accommodation in St Andrews

Fife Council’s new policy to introduce a limit on houses of mulitiple occupation in St Andrews (HMOs) has attracted a wide range of comments.

Councillors on the community and housing services committee have agreed to limit future HMO licences to between zero and three per cent. A zero per cent agreement would mean no future HMO licences will be granted while, at the top end, around 200 would get the green light.

Speaking at the committee meeting, Councillor Brian Thomson (Labour, St Andrews) expressed concern, pointing out the average house price in St Andrews is now £360,000.

“University workers, who are on an average of £40,000, can’t afford to buy or rent in town, and are having to move to outlying towns and villages,” he said. “In 1985 there were 3500 students and 9500 permanent residents. Last year, there were 9300 students and just 7500 permanent residents.

“Langlands Primary School had to close because there were no longer enough pupils to populate it.”

But Paloma Paige, St Andrews University Student Council representative, said: “This will lead to more students renting in unlicensed houses, creating an unsafe environment for them. There is a real demand from students who want to rent privately and not in student accommodation, because they want that degree of independence. Unless there is a flexibility to allow more properties, it will just create more problems.”

Alastair Merrill, St Andrews University representative, added: “Students want to live in town and be part of the community. This decision will affect the town and students for many generations to come.”

The committee agreed to implement a HMO policy in St Andrews, noting that their preferred option was for zero new HMO properties, but that they would make a final decision on the number at the end of the consultation in February 2019.

A university spokesman said it would play an active and supportive part in the consultation process which would now takes place.

He added: “We have consistently said we’d support a balanced threshold policy which protects housing in those areas of St Andrews most likely to be attractive and affordable to families.”

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