Fringe Box



Letter: Long-term Solution To Homes Of Multiple Occupants?

Published on: 5 Nov, 2014
Updated on: 5 Nov, 2014

From Alderman Bernard Parke

To letWe all know that it is extremely difficult for our young people to buy homes in their home town of Guildford. With the current high rents, it is virtually impossible for them to make provisions to save for a deposit on what would no doubt become a family home.

Remember, the family home is the bed rock of family life.

It is often suggested that building ‘affordable’ homes would help to resolve this problem. However, many of these so-called affordable homes have been snapped up by speculators and used to house visiting students.

I am led to believe that many of these landlords live far away from Guildford, and indeed some live far away from our shores.

Student lets are attractive to these speculators as they are short-term lets covering a period of one year, which gives landlords some liquidity, although for part of this time the properties tend to be unoccupied.

This in turn is leading to an increasing number of homes of multiple occupants (HMOs) and with problems (such as litter and discarded refuse) that is now being generated in central Guildford. A problem which has often been reported by contributors to The Dragon.

However, is this HMO policy the answer?

Will this give us a long-term solution?

I am told many university towns restrict the number of such lets in central areas.

We must now appreciate that Guildford Borough Council has at long last recognised this problem and the distress that it has brought to neighbouring residents.

Perhaps the problem is beyond the powers of our council and one that central government should address with a Rent Act.

This worked in the past, by not only giving security of tenure, but kept homes affordable and less attractive to speculators.

To build on the metropolitan green belt is not the answer, for if this were to start where would it end?

The green belt has been handed down to us, and as such we are little more than its trustees.

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Responses to Letter: Long-term Solution To Homes Of Multiple Occupants?

  1. Terry Stevenson Reply

    November 6, 2014 at 12:06 am

    Everyone seems to want a big government ‘nanny state’ when it suits them, and small government low taxes at other times.

    Is more and legislation and bureaucracy, specifically designed to prevent people from making a living, and those seeking further education accommodation, really the way forward to a prosperous future?

    Rather than trying to live close to the university, perhaps students should be encouraged to commute longer distances (perhaps from lower density housing developed on the greenbelt?), and in doing so add to Guildford’s already stretched transportation infrastructure.

  2. John Robson Reply

    November 6, 2014 at 8:28 am

    I struggle with the fact that the University of Surrey is permitted to expand exponentially but is not compelled by GBC to meet its basic obligation to deliver the student accommodation needed to meet the obvious demand.
    The university already has existing planning consent to meet a large proportion of the student accommodation which is required on its current sites. This would free up much needed housing stock for local council tax-paying people and help to take the heat out of the HMO gravy train, but the only growth the university is interested in is that of its balance sheet, housing its own students is a low return investment, let someone else deal with the problem.

    The net effect is that the London-based buy to let landlords have an unlimited flow of tenants and thus see Guildford’s housing market as easy, profitable pickings, hence the reason our two-, three-,and four-bedroom prime housing stock is being turned into four-, five-, six, and seven-bed dormitories. Sadly what were once prime residential family areas being turned into student ghettos with their associated noise pollution, parking issues and well documented refuse issues, to be fair you can’t blame the students, they will migrate to the cheapest, party central location.

    GBC’s solution, let’s open up the green belt, permit the university to build even more housing stock for the buy-to-let brigade, without any safeguards whatsoever to ensure that local people will gain access, that being in the event that the university “choose” to build any “economically viable affordable housing”.

    Whilst the trajectory has been set it is difficult to fathom as to which direction this town is actually heading – parties, pizza boxes and parking issues, coming to a street near you soon.

  3. Ngaire Wadman Reply

    November 11, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    I happen to live in a street of small 1920s three-bedroom detached houses, many of which are now HMOs.
    These are easily spotted by the generally poor state of the windows and gardens, the number of small cars parked on the bends of the road, and the party noise on weekends.
    Alderman Parke and Mr Robson make very valid points – if the University of Surrey was given permission to develop land for student accommodation, why has this not happened?
    HMOs are evidently more attractive for buy-to-let landlords although detrimental to a neighbourhood. It should not be beyond the wit of Guildford Borough Council to devise some means of returning these houses to family occupation.

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