From The Argus –
Calls have been made for stronger restrictions to curb the rising number of shared houses after the high number of students in areas of the city reached “tipping point”.
Currently restrictions on new applications allow for ten per cent of homes in a 50 metre radius to be houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).
But Conservative councillors have proposed to change this to 5 per cent in a 150 metre radius.
Meanwhile Labour councillors repeated calls at the full council meeting last night for business rates to be charged on HMOs while Greens called for any restrictions to be extended to holiday lets that operate for less than 140 days a year.
The discussion was sparked by a petition of almost 1,300 signatures from Bevendean local action team chairman Bill Gandy opposing rising HMOs in the ward.
His area has more than 25 per cent of properties being used as shared housing as the number grew before restrictions on new HMOs took effect.
The ward, which is off the main commuting route to both city universities, is home to 40 per cent of the city’s HMOs.
Mr Gandy told councillors of the devastating impact of the loss of balance between students and families in some streets detailing how residents woke in the morning to clear vomit and smashed vodka bottles off the street and tidy up bushes that had been jumped upon.
He said the area had reached its “tipping point”.
Conservative councillor Carol Theobald called on the universities to consider building their own student housing in neighbouring authorities in Lewes, Falmer and Newhaven.
Fellow Tory Joe Miller warned that waiting for tougher restrictions to be incorporated into the City Plan Part Two could take up to three years to come into effect.
He added there were dangers of creating a “ghost city” in summer months when students went home if the issue of HMOs was not curbed.
Labour councillor Tracey Hill said some HMO landlords had built up large portfolios of properties and should be treated as businesses.
But she confirmed that the council would not look to overturn the exemption of council tax for students which costs the authority around £5 million a year.
And she welcomed warnings from Conservative councillors Lee Wares and Andrew Wealls that charging business rates might force some HMO landlords to sell up freeing up properties that could return to family housing.
Her party colleague Mo Marsh said rising HMOs became a “self-fulfilling prophecy” as more families were forced out of their areas they had grown up in sell their homes paving the way for more shared homes.
Green councillor David Gibson said HMOs made up to 50 per cent of some streets in his Hanover and Elm Grove ward while his colleague Dick Page said the growth in students had been enormous in the city and measures to tackle the issue were a case of “chipping away at the iceberg”.