Since Fife Council announced its proposed changes to HMO regulations, discussion surrounding the issue has continued to develop in St Andrews. In early February, the policy and coordination committee on Fife Council decided to increase the University of St Andrews HMO fees from £54,000 every three years to £512,000 every three years, an increase of 800%.
The decision has been criticised by various organisations and individuals in St Andrews, including University and the Royal Burgh of St Andrews Community Council. Fife Councillors Dominic Nolan and Jane Ann Liston, both of whom represent St Andrews on the Council but do not serve on the policy and coordination committee, also oppose the increase.
A motion was also passed by the Students’ Representative Council condemning the decision to increase HMO fees by Fife Council. Students’ Association President Jamie Rodney wrote an open letter that stated: “At a time when both students and local residents are crying out for cheaper accommodation, [the increased HMO fee] places extra costs and barriers on everyone, whether living in halls or rented accommodation.” 2,899 people so far have signed the open letter.
After a strong backlash from around St Andrews, the community has opened a conversation about the issue. According to discussions Mr Rodney had with Head of Housing Services for Fife Council John Mills, the Council will have regular meetings with the Association throughout 2020. Mr Rodney said Fife Council is “going to work with the University to reduce HMO charges and find ways to move away from the system of checking every single flat.”
The initial HMO increase was justified by the Council because the proposed changes would require each flat within David Russell Apartments to receive an HMO rather than each block.
Mr Rodney also said Fife Council is “going to consult with locals and students about the impact of the policy, and then reassess it in October.” The next policy and coordination committee meeting is set for 5 November 2020. Mr Rodney said it is unknown to what extent HMO fees could be reduced by until the Council has determined how many rooms to check, “but hopefully updates will be forthcoming.”
However, when The Saint reached out to the University, they could not confirm Mr Rodney’s claims. A spokesperson from the University said, “We welcome the opportunity to continue discussions with the Council on this matter.” Mr Rodney expressed disappointment that the University had not been informed of the Council’s further discussion of the HMO increases.