Hundreds of new HMOs approved in six years of St Andrews moratorium

Kris Miller, Courier, 30/09/14. Picture today general view of South Street and cathedral in St Andrews for files.

More than 750 new licences for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) have been issued in St Andrews since a moratorium was introduced with the aim of limiting the number in the town.

The policy – introduced in 2011 – prohibits planning permission for a change of use for houses and flats in the conservation area. However, consent is not required for houses for up to five individuals.

Of the properties licensed as HMOs, which are typically let to students, more than 300 were in the conservation area.

Most were mainstream housing potentially suitable for families, although more than 200 were for student-only properties or other types of accommodation.

Critics have complained that the spread of HMOs reduces housing available for the general public and that neighbourhoods suffer from neglected and untidy properties and become ghost towns during the university holidays.

A review of the situation is due to be presented to north-east Fife councillors next month.

Labour councillor Brian Thomson said he would be calling for stricter controls.

“The number of HMO properties across the whole of St Andrews is now completely out of hand,” he said.

“I will be looking for the moratorium in the town centre to be maintained, the loophole that allows houses of up to five residents to be exempt from the moratorium to be closed, and consideration to be given to extending the moratorium across the whole of the town.

“The university and its students are absolutely vital to the local economy and making St Andrews the fantastic place to live that it is, however, the housing situation in the town is unsustainable and a balance has to be struck.”

The town’s SNP councillor Ann Verner said: “There is no doubt that HMOs put pressure on the amount of accommodation available to others wishing to live in the town. St Andrews is a desirable location and the issue of affordable housing is one we need to tackle.

“HMOs should continue to be regulated to ensure a balance for all residents.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Jane Ann Liston said HMO management and landlord registration provided a way for neighbours to complain about tenants’ bad behaviour.

She said: “I think that all HMOs should have, as a condition of the licence, a locally-based agent, within 30 minutes travel at most, and a waste management plan.”

Conservative councillor Dominic Nolan said: “The most effective way to deal with the ever-present student housing crisis will be to get more students into dedicated housing and so I am happy with the progress being made by the university in expanding their halls.”