HMOs are ‘worsening Bristol’s housing crisis’
DEVELOPERS converting family homes into shared houses are “worsening Bristol’s housing crisis”, a councillor has claimed.
The city council was slammed for having “no idea” how many houses of multiple occupation or HMOs there are in the city, despite recent efforts to address the issue.
Concerns came to the fore during a debate on May 18 over an application to the council’s development control committee to convert what was originally a two-bed house in Bishopston into a six-person HMO, drawing more than 200 objections.
Fishponds and Eastville have also seen a rise in the number of applications to convert conventional homes into HMOs, where several separate households share communal facilities.
Since the start of the year applications have been made for conversions or lawful use certificates in Freemantle Road, Pound Drive, The Greenway, Oldbury Court Road, Fishponds Road, Manor Road, Forest Road and Brentry Road.
The council has been trying to control the number of HMOs in the city, with a policy allowing an application to be refused if it means more than one in 10 homes will be HMOs.
But the meeting heard the council cannot immediately force a landlord of an HMO without a licence or planning permission to convert it back, as this would mean evicting tenants – and it also does not know how many HMOs there are.
Asked what proportion of HMOs in Bristol are licensed, development management service manager Gary Collins told the meeting: "I’m sorry, I have no idea.
"I would suggest it’s quite high, but I have no evidence to base that on."
Cotham ward Green councillor Guy Poultney said: "I do not know what more councillors can do to control the proliferation of HMOs in the city.
"It’s hugely damaging to the quality of life for our residents and it’s reducing the number of family homes in circulation. It’s worsening the housing crisis.”
By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Licensing scheme will not be renewed
A SCHEME to inspect rental properties in Eastville will not be renewed.
The Property Licensing scheme was introduced by the city council in 2016 in the area and St George, to raise standards and take action against landlords who fail to adhere to them.
Since then, more than 3,400 inspections have been carried out: 88% of properties were found to breach licence conditions, 752 notices were issued to resolve serious hazards, and legal action resulted in fines exceeding £62,000.
However the scheme has a five-year limit and, having been judged to be a success, it is now being tried in other areas of the city.
A council spokesperson said the law governing the scheme meant it could not be extended without new consultations, but licences remain in force for five years beyond their issue date.
The spokesperson said: "The scheme means we now have a database of landlords, and tenants who have been made more aware of the powers the council have to deal with poor housing conditions.
"Even though the scheme has ended in these areas, we still respond to any complaints and work with tenants and landlords to improve conditions and resolve disputes."
Plans for city-wide licensing could be introduced later in the year.