Planning restrictions on HMOs set to be extended across the city

Property owners across the city wishing to convert a family house into a shared house or house in multiple occupation (HMO) for up to six people will need planning permission from 3 June.

Currently such conversions only need planning permission in the following five wards which have controls through an ‘Article 4 Direction':

•    Hanover & Elm Grove
•    Hollingdean & Stanmer
•    Moulsecoomb & Bevendean
•    Queen’s Park
•    St Peters & North Laine

Planning controls extended

In January members of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities & Culture Committee agreed to extend the planning controls to the rest of the city (apart from the area in the South Downs National Park which comes under a different planning authority).

The Secretary of State has been informed of the council’s decision and the Article 4 extension will come into force on 3 June 2020.

Larger HMOs of seven or more occupants already need planning permission across the city.

Responding to residents' concerns

The committee decided to explore extending the rules following residents’ concerns about the extra pressures they can place on neighbourhoods. 

Public consultation last summer attracted 261 responses with 92% in favour of the extension. Most of those who responded were residents. Those who objected mentioned the lack of affordable housing and the perception that HMOs are mostly occupied by students. 

Councillor Tracey Hill, chair of the planning committee, said: “We are doing this at the request of residents who are concerned about high concentrations of HMOs in some areas and the loss of family housing.

"Extending the rules to the rest of the city will bring clarity for property owners wishing to provide this type of accommodation and give all residents a say in the planning process.

“It will also complement our HMO licensing which already operates citywide to make sure HMOs are a decent standard.”

Affordable accommodation

HMOs are in demand as they provide affordable accommodation for people living and working in a city where rents are high.

The council recognises that they are an important low-cost housing option for many people, not just students. However, recent research shows a reduction in demand for private rented student accommodation, some of which is in HMOs.

The new rules do not put an overall cap the number of new HMOs. They are designed to give the council an opportunity to ensure they are of a decent standard and create a more even spread to achieve a greater balance of housing within communities.

City Plan

Planning applications will be assessed using a policy in City Plan Part One which states that HMO development will not be permitted where more than 10% of dwellings within a radius of 50 metres of the application site are already in HMO use.

Once City Plan Part 2 is adopted, additional criteria will be introduced to better manage concentrations of HMOs both in the immediate vicinity of an application site by preventing continuous frontages of three or more HMOs and across the wider neighbourhood area.

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 approximately 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.

View our HMO map to see where they are located in the city.

Current planning rules for HMOs

Find out more about how HMOs are licensed

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