Consultation launched on curbing conversion of homes to HMOs

Liverpool City Council has launched a major public consultation exercise on limiting the practice of converting smaller homes into houses for multiple occupation.

Over the past decade, Liverpool has seen a significant growth in the number of HMOs – with its booming student population and current housing benefit rules fuelling a demand for single person households.

Fears have been expressed that the volume of HMOs has reached “a tipping point”, which is threatening the housing offer in the city for families and causing parking, anti-social behaviour and waste collection issues in certain neighbourhoods.

Currently, conversion of family houses into larger HMOs – 7 bedrooms and above – must have planning permission, meaning that the council has some ability to influence where and how larger HMOs are developed.

The council has now begun a two month consultation process which is asking for opinions on whether the same rules should be introduced across the inner core of the city for any new HMOs of less than 7 bedrooms. If implemented, the decision will have no impact on existing HMOs.

This is not the first time the council has adopted this change. In 2018, it implemented an Article 4 Direction in the Dales area of Greenbank Ward, in south Liverpool, and this broader step across 11 council wards follows a commitment made in Liverpool’s Draft Local Plan to utilise Article 4 to control smaller HMO development elsewhere in the city.

The move to establish a public consultation follows a review in 2019 by independent planning consultancy firm ARUP which set out to establish the intensity of HMOs in all neighbourhoods and identify evidence of environmental harm caused by that intensity, as required by law.

The deadline for comments for the HMO public consultation will be midnight on Friday, 19 February 2021. People can write by post to:

• Regulatory Team, Legal Services, Liverpool City Council, Cunard Building, Water Street, Liverpool L3 1AH
• Or e-mail: Housing.Strategy@liverpool.gov.uk
• Or go online at: https://liverpool.gov.uk/council/consultation-and-engagement/consultation/

If approved, the new Article 4 direction would come into force on 10 April 2021 and would apply to the following wards in the city:
• Anfield
• Central
• Greenbank
• Kensington And Fairfield
• Picton
• Princes Park
• Riverside
• Tuebrook And Stoneycroft
• Wavertree
Part of the following electoral wards will also be included at the boundaries of:
• Kirkdale Ward bounded by Leeds Street, Vauxhall Road, Ford Street and Scotland Road
• Church Ward bounded by Heathfield Road, Queens Drive, Allerton Road and Rutherford Road

Councillor Barry Kushner, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet member for Housing, said: “We have launched a public consultation on implementing Article 4 to support our view that the spread of HMOs in our communities needs more regulation, because residents tell us how they are damaging the fabric and stability of their community.

“This is hugely important in supporting our communities. We want to hear from residents and businesses about the impact that HMOs are having on them and their neighbourhood through this consultation, and also from landlords about their views on the proposals.

“As a council we need to have the ability to offer families of all different sizes and people with a whole host of needs a variety of good quality, affordable homes.

“If unchecked HMOs will reduce that offer which is why we need to reset the dial whilst developing more social housing across the city. In some areas we need to protect communities from HMOs.

“Changing the planning rules by introducing controls under Article 4 will not just protect the wellbeing of the people who live in these communities, it will also help protect the balance of our housing offer – which, in some areas, is close to a dangerous tipping point of being dominated by one bedroom bedsits.

“Of course Article 4 is not the whole answer to Liverpool’s housing problems. That is why we are preparing a new application for our Landlord Licensing Scheme, to ensure good housing standards are maintained in the private rented sector and why the city council is embarking on a house building programme for the first time in 30 years.”