Conversions of family homes into small-sized Houses in Multiple Occupation could soon be restricted in Birmingham following a proposal by the city council.
It has been revealed there are at least 6,000 HMOs across the city, although it is suspected there are many more.
While they help meeting a specific housing need, particularly for people on a low income, there are concerns that ‘high concentrations’ in certain areas are harming their character, putting pressure on infrastructure and diminishing community cohesion.
This morning (Tuesday) the cabinet agreed for an order to be drawn up which would mean anyone trying to turn a home into a HMO for up to six people would need to get planning permission from the council, whereas currently they do not.
The council is looking to reject applications where it would mean more than 10 per cent of homes in a 100 metre radius would be HMO properties, where a family home would be ‘sandwiched’ between two HMOs or where it would result in three or more continuous frontages of non-family homes.
The proposal, referred to as an Article 4 direction under the Town and Country Planning Order 2015, will now go out for public feedback for at least six weeks before coming back for cabinet approval.
But even then it would not be implemented for another 12 months to give developers and landowners notice and avoid the risk of them claiming compensation from the council.
Homes and neighbourhoods chief Cllr Sharon Thompson (Lab, North Edgbaston ) said: “A number of people who live in wards, or represent wards, or who are affected by wards where there is a high concentration of HMOs know the issues they can bring.
“This is a huge move forward for the city and one that is hugely welcomed.”
Deputy council leader Brigid Jones (Lab), who represents Bournbrook and Selly Park, said: “It has been transformational in our ward in keeping the number of HMOs in check and providing a quality place for local residents to live.”
Under the plans, that order would be cancelled and replaced by the city-wide direction.
Opposition councillors also welcomed the proposal.
Cllr Rob Alden (Conservative group leader, Erdington) said: “We have spent a long time calling for this to be introduced at council, sadly it was voted down at the time, but I’m glad to see everyone is now on board.
“It is an issue across the city that needs to be dealt with. Other councils have managed to use this sort of mechanism to do it very effectively.”
Cllr Jon Hunt (Lib Dem group leader, Perry Barr) said: “It’s time to deal with the issue of people who are cramming quite a lot of people into quite small properties.
“It’s amazing how many people can be crammed into a two bedroom or three bedroom house, if people attempt to do so.”
A city mapping exercise identified 6,128 HMOs across the city.
Although the number is only an ‘indication’ and ‘not a comprehensive picture’ because it does not include the small sized HMOs for six people or less, converted homes which have fallen out of use, and any unauthorised developments which have managed to slip under the radar.
Nevertheless ‘significant’ concentrations of HMOs were found in Bournbrook, Selly Oak, Harborne, Edgbaston, North Edgbaston, Ladywood, Handsworth, Lozells, Soho, Erdington, Gravelly Hill, Balsall Heath West and Moseley.
But the council stated there is an ‘even spread’ across the whole of Birmingham apart from the north of the city around Sutton Coldfield where HMOs are more ‘sparse’.