Landlords facing crackdown as more students attracted to city

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TOUGHER regulations are due to be imposed in one of Yorkshire’s property hotspots amid concerns over the number of homes which are being converted into accommodation for students.

Senior politicians in York are considering a range of measures to keep a closer check on the shared housing sector.

Council officials have admitted that problems of litter, noise complaints and anti-social behaviour have plagued neighbourhoods that have a higher percentage of houses in multi-occupancy (HMOs).

Statistics have also revealed that HMOs are more likely to be targeted for break-ins as burglars look to maximise the items they can steal from one property.

Demand for privately rented accommodation in York, where the average family home costs in excess of £200,000, has rocketed in recent years as many first-time buyers have been priced out of the market.

The economic downturn has also led to additional demand as more and more people have to look towards renting a property rather than taking out a mortgage.

However, the biggest concerns which have been raised are about the influx of students as York University undergoes a massive expansion, and York St John University also looks to build on its burgeoning reputation.

Those living in neighbourhoods close to York University have spoken out over the impact on their communities as the number of student residents continues to increase.

A fifth of all properties in some of districts – including the Hull Road area and Fishergate – are now HMOs.

The number of students at York University is predicted to reach 15,000 within the next decade – a 50 per cent increase on the figures from 2003.

York Council’s cabinet member for housing and adult services, Councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing, admitted that the issues surrounding HMOs present major challenges for the authority.

Coun Simpson-Laing said: “There has been a significant growth in the number of HMOs in York in recent years, and we have fought long and hard to bring in new regulations.

“We want to make sure that where there are HMOs in the city, they are of a suitable standard and are regulated properly.”

She added: “This is about not only dealing with any problems in the neighbourhoods, it is also about ensuring the safety of the tenants who are living in these properties.”

New policies which are being considered by the council include launching a city-wide landlord accreditation scheme to introduce a code of practice.

The initiative would also create an official process for handling complaints and enforcing disciplinary action on rogue landlords.

Members of the council’s cabinet are due to back new national legislation to enforce orders to ensure planning permission is needed within a designated area before a domestic property can be converted into an HMO.

The use of the Article Four Directions was approved by the previous Liberal Democrat administration, and the Labour-run council is due to agree to use the regulations from April next year.

A national debate has focused on the impact that large numbers of student properties and other shared accommodation has on the wider property market and the loss of local amenities such as shops and schools.

The expansion of York University is seen as key to bringing further economic growth to the city, but it has also exacerbated problems with residents.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in November last year that a campaign was being launched to get students to take more pride in their neighbourhoods after complaints about fly-tipping and anti-social social behaviour.

The council joined forces with the university’s students’ union to get undergraduates involved in community projects.