In recent weeks we have been hearing rumour coming from our ‘friends’ at Southampton City Council.
The story followed that the City Council was actively looking to replace all HMO’s within the City with Hall of Residence Places thus squeezing out the HMO market.
We didn’t give much credit to this until two decisions came our way.
The first related to the retention of a Sui-Generis HMO. The applicant (and the Council’s Licensing Section) said it was a HMO. Planning said it was a house.
The second related to a planning decision for a new HMO (now at appeal) where all of the reasons for refusal were licensing reasons (not planning).
And then, very quietly and without consultation Southampton CC changed their HMO SPD, the document governing the method by which new HMO applications were tested. This made getting a new HMO harder!
On the same day (and equally quietly) the Council introduced discretionary licensing for the the remainder of the City.
If Southampton was trying to say it was not biased things were not looking good.
Looking at the Planning History for the City the Council has granted 1000’s of new bedspaces for Hall of Residence since 2012. They are going up around the City all the time. It is now easier to get planning permission for a multi-storey Hall of Residence than it is to get planning permission for a much needed block of flats!
Hall spaces are included within the Council’s housing needs assessment as a way to meet its 5 year land supply.
Hall spaces are also exempted from the Council’s Community Infrastructure Charge.
Thus to our eyes it would appear that Southampton’s solution to the HMO question is two-fold. Only approve if there is absolutely no other way and make HMO’s undesirable by providing enough accommodation for the 34,305 Students attending both universities.
Our advice to HMO landlords looking at Southampton is DON’T! With the Council’s increasing prejudice against you the application will undoubtedly lead to a refusal.