Residents’ concerns about high concentrations of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) have led to a proposal to extend 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 currently do not have to get planning permission. Larger HMOs of seven or more occupants already need planning permission.
Current planning controls
At present five wards have controls through an ‘Article 4 Direction’ which means that in the following areas small HMO conversions do need planning permission:
• Hanover & Elm Grove
• Hollingdean & Stanmer
• Moulsecoomb & Bevendean
• Queen’s Park
• St Peters & North Laine
What we are proposing
If agreed, property owners will need to get planning permission to change the use of a family home to a small HMO anywhere in the city.
Councillor Gill Williams, lead member for planning policy, said: “HMOs are in demand as they provide affordable accommodation for people living and working in a city where rents are high. However, those living in areas with high concentrations of HMOs are concerned about the extra pressures they place on neighbourhoods.
“This proposal aims to make the rules consistent for everyone. It will give residents a say through the planning process to address the balance of HMOs in all areas of Brighton & Hove. It would also bring the planning regulations in line with HMO licensing which is already in force citywide and helps to ensure HMOs are a decent standard.”
Take part in the consultation
Give us your views on the proposal from 3 June.
The consultation runs from Monday 3 June to Monday 15 July.
In June 2018, the Tourism, Development & Culture Committee decided that the council should explore extending the boundary of the Article 4 Direction to cover the whole city (apart from that in the South Downs National Park which comes under a different planning authority).
During the autumn, the council gathered evidence of where HMOs are, discovering that although most are within the wards covered by the existing Article 4 Direction, there are significant numbers outside these areas all over the city.
Areas with high concentrations where planning permission currently does not apply include the area bordered by the London Road railway viaduct, New England Road and Beaconsfield Road, East Brighton and the Regency ward areas.
In January 2019, councillors agreed to start the process of extending the Article 4 Direction area to cover the whole city. This process includes a public consultation. Any representations made must be taken into account when considering whether to confirm the direction which also has to be considered by the Secretary of State. If confirmed, the direction will come into force on 3 June 2020.
What is an HMO?
A House in Multiple Occupation, commonly known as an HMO, is a property occupied by at least three people who are not from one ‘household’ (e.g. a family) but share facilities such as a bathroom and kitchen.
Examples include bedsits, shared houses, lodgings, accommodation for employees and refuges.
There are 5,000 licensed HMOs in Brighton & Hove [Source: City Plan Part 2] but many HMOs do not house students – the cost and shortage of housing in the city means that many young professionals and people on low incomes also live in HMOs.
Average property prices in the city are 48% higher than the rest of England and Wales [source: Brighton & Hove Housing Market Report (Q4 2018)]. The average rent for a one bedroom flat is more than £900 a month, whereas renting a room in a shared property is nearly half that at around £500 a month.