Council proposes better way to manage HMOs

Residents’ concerns about high concentrations of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) have led to a proposal to extend the current planning rules across the city.
In most of Brighton & Hove, property owners wishing to convert a family house into a shared house or HMO for up to six people do not have to get planning permission. Larger HMOs of seven or more occupants already need planning permission.
Six years ago we introduced controls in five wards through an ‘Article 4 Direction’ which means that in those areas small HMO conversions need planning permission.
In June 2018, the Tourism, Development & Culture Committee decided that we should look to see if there is evidence for extending the boundary of the Article 4 Direction.
During the autumn, we gathered information of where HMOs are, discovering that although most are within the wards covered by the existing Article 4 Direction, there are also some significant numbers outside these areas in other parts of the city. 
Areas with high concentrations where the need to obtain planning permission does not currently apply include parts of Preston Park, East Brighton and Regency ward areas.

What is proposed

The proposal aims to:

  • make the rules consistent for everyone
  • provide long-term certainty for developers and residents
  • prevent concentrations getting too high before action is taken

It would also bring the planning regulations in line with HMO licensing which is already in force citywide.

At their meeting on 17 January councillors decided to go ahead and open up the proposal to public consultation. Any representations made must be taken into account when considering whether to confirm the direction. The Secretary of State has to be informed of our decision and may cancel the Direction if it is not justified by evidence. 
Councillor Julie Cattell, lead member for planning, said: “The cost of housing in the city and overall shortage of new housing means that many young professionals and people on low incomes live in HMOs and they are in high demand, but high concentrations of HMOs can put extra pressure on communities and residents are concerned.
“This proposal is not intended to stop HMO development but give the public more say in managing change of use applications through the planning process to ensure a more even spread in neighbourhoods.”
Houses of Multiple Occupation – Extension to Article 4 Direction Area is item 60 on the Tourism, Development & Culture Committee agenda.