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Fighting for sustainable communities


This is an article for the South Wales Evening Post

For a number of years now I have been working with groups concerned at the way their community has changed as a result of many family homes being converted into houses of multiple occupation.

A House of Multiple Occupancy is one that is home to several tenants who rent separately from each other, often on a short term basis. These are typically used by students and young professionals and are cheaper to rent than an entire house. However, in some communities the majority of houses are now HMOs and this has had a drastic impact on the neighbourhood, as well as causing additional problems with parking and rubbish.

At the moment, it is possible to convert a home into a house in multiple occupation without planning permission if there are eight people or fewer living in it.

At Westminster it was announced in January 2010 that local authorities in England will have the power to force a landlord who wishes to turn a property into a HMO to apply for a change of use order.

HMOs are an important part of our housing sector and give access to housing for many who would otherwise not be able to afford it. However, having too many within an individual area can have a detrimental effect on a community.

Three quarters of the houses in some Swansea streets are houses in multiple occupation. A change in planning law will enable councils to adopt policies for specific areas that set limits on future conversions. Residents will also have a more effective say in the future of their community.

I have raised this in the Assembly in recent weeks in the hope of influencing the planning bill that is coming before us later this year. Change is needed. I hope that Minister will listen.


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