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Lettings agency and council in student homes crackdown row
ONE of Worcester's biggest lettings firms has attacked a crackdown on student homes - claiming the city council is "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut".
Student Places, part of Worcester's Premier Places group, says it will harm the city's economy and put landlords off investing.
The stance has been rubbished by the council's Labour leadership, which says the firm is "scaremongering".
As your Worcester News reported last month a new "10 per cent rule" is coming into force for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).
Under the policy a property can only be converted into a HMO if no more than 10 per cent of all the homes within a 100 metre radius have the same status.
It will apply from July, and is mainly aimed to ensuring student properties are better spread across the city rather than concentrated in one area, like St John's.
Andy Lloyd, from Student Places, said: "It’s effectively a blanket ban on new HMOs without planning permission.
"It will seriously curb the number of student homes in any particular street. "But there are serious implications, not only for landlords, but for the wider economy.
"The knock on effect is landlords are backtracking due to the uncertainty.
"And without their investment, students will be put off coming to Worcester because a shortage of housing will drive up rents and reduce availability.
"Students have underpinned the economy in certain areas of Worcester over recent years.
"They are important, they bring disposable income into the local economy so the new planning rules will affect local businesses too.
"It’s a decision which could have a massive knock-on effect.”
He said the council should have applied it to only a few key roads in Worcester, rather than go for a blanket rule.
“It is a sledgehammer to crack a nut and that will not do Worcester any favours," he added.
The stance from the company differs from the University of Worcester, which says it is happy to work with the council in managing HMOs.
Councillor Roger Berry, city council cabinet member for health and well-being said: "This is scaremongering, the response we've had from elsewhere has been positive.
"The views of council taxpayers must be respected, and there are concerns on over-studentification in some areas.
"All we wish to do is spread HMOs more evenly around the city."
The main driver for the policy is to spread out both student homes and properties lived-in by several single people, to ease tensions with nearby families over parking spaces, noise and congestion.
In some areas of Worcester like the Bedwardine council ward in St John’s, 12 per cent of properties are already HMOs, meaning the policy effectively blocks any more.
HMOs are classed as homes where between three and six people live and occupy separate bedrooms.