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  6. Southampton moves on multiple occupancy

Southampton moves on multiple occupancy

Southampton City Council is set to take new powers which will allow it to protect family homes and control where houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) are permitted.

The council has signalled it plans to use an Article 4 Direction to control HMOs – rented homes where three or more unrelated people live. This means it will be able to refuse new HMOs in any one area in the future.

Article 4 powers allow local authorities to implement strict planning rules in specific areas of cities or towns. In this instance landlords would have to obtain planning permission before turning homes into rented HMOs.

Councillor Matthew Dean, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “These powers would allow us to look carefully at areas in the city where there are problems or issues with houses in multiple occupancy. We can also look at areas where there are concerns from residents about protecting where they live in the future.

“It means we can insist that landlords apply for planning permission if they change the use of a house into an HMO.”
As well as exploring how it will use Article 4, the council is working with communities and organisations to make sure plenty of houses remain as family homes in Southampton.

“We want to embrace diversity in Southampton and make sure we cater for all,” said Councillor Dean. “However we must protect family homes and make sure that Southampton is a place where families can live and enjoy.

“To do that we need to make sure there are lots of family homes for our residents to choose from. That is why as well as looking at these new powers, we are also working with people like private landlords and the University of Southampton, to ensure that there is also sufficient good quality accommodation for students.”

The council plans to adopt Article 4 powers from 23 March 2012.

This move came after housing minister Grant Shapps unveiled new planning rules for HMOs which allow developers to create HMOs without needing to apply for planning permission.

At the time Shapps said councils could use Article 4 Directions - usually used to control development in conservation areas – to insist that developers still apply for permission when creating shared houses.

In January a High Court judge granted a group of councils permission for a judicial review against the changes. The case is due to be heard in April.

Roger Milne

31 March 2011