Residents of St Andrews are trying to extend the ban on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) beyond the town centre.
An HMO licence is required for properties occupied by three or more unrelated persons. They are important for student flats as they increase the protection of HMO tenants and their neighbours by making sure accommodation is safe, well managed and of good quality. An HMO property may not be lawfully occupied without a licence.
A HMO ban within the centre of town has existed since June 2011 in an attempt to prevent the town centre becoming a “student enclave.” This means that no new HMO licences will be granted within the town centre.
Last month, a controversial HMO at a property on Pipeland road passed despite a number of objections from residents. The application was for a six-person HMO and although it was outside the town centre, some members of the local community argued that the property was not suitable for students.
One objection from Lynsey Martin said: “These properties are designed as family homes and not as student flats. We are concerned about noise levels very close to our home. There could also be a problem with parking as many students now have cars.
“We are happy to see the house being developed and upgraded and have no problem in it being used as a family home. We do, however, want to lodge an appeal against awarding this property an HMO licence. We have nothing against students at all but feel there are plenty of more suitable areas for student accommodation.”
Local residents Mr and Mrs Alexander also disagreed with the HMO. They argued: “Students, by definition, are transient tenants. Many have little or no empathy for the way of life of their immediate neighbourhood. This is disquieting for residents.
“During previous student lets, there were reported instances of unruly and aggravating behaviour. Sadly, those memories remain real and unnerving to many neighbours today.
“We certainly do empathise with the students. They too have their lives to lead. They need space and freedom to express themselves, have parties etc… but totally inappropriate in this particular location. We earnestly request that you reject this HMO application.”
Falkland councillor David MacDiarmid moved to reject the application as he argued that there is an overprovision of HMOs in the area. There are 686 such properties in the town-with more than half outwith the central belt.
The application went through, however, without a vote as the council had no policy in place. Residents and members of the community council are now attempting to extend the ban beyond the town centre.
One of the objectors to the application, John Ferguson, argued:“Our community of 31 houses in Livingstone Crescent and Place has five HMOs and another student let, with yet another HMO hearing in September.
“We are further threatened by a development in Whitehill Terrace, to introduce another six students to an address backing onto Livingstone Place.
“Nelson Street, which backs on to Livingstone Crescent, has only four permanent residents out of 31 dwellings, and King Street, which is the extension of the Place, is reduced to its last owner-occupier. Must we fiddle while Rome burns?”
Local councillor and regulation and licensing committee member Dorothea Morrison said on Tuesday that reports were currently being prepared by the St Andrews Housing Commission.
She said argued that there should a temporary embargo on HMOs in the area until the reports have been released and the Council have produced a concrete policy.
She commented: “We have to find the right balance. Students always think it is an anti-student policy. It is not. There needs to be some thought in the town over the percentage of permanent residents and those staying on a short term basis. We have to have a sustainable community.”
The town centre HMO ban in 2011 invoked much criticism from the Students’ Association, which labelled it a “deliberate steps to segregate students and the community.”
This new attempt to extend it has not been met favourably by president of the Students’ Association Chloe Hill, who argued that finding accommodation in St Andrews is already competitive and a HMO cap across the town may make this process more difficult for students.
She commented: “Students have been an important part of this town’s community for 600 years, and like the other members of the community they need somewhere to live.
“To attempt to block HMO licences, not only in the centre of town, but also further out is an obvious move to drive students out.
“We will do everything possible to make the case for students and the need for HMO licences to ensure they can live in safe, private accommodation.”
Viewpoint: Elliot Davies on accommodation