An independent York councillor has accused the authority of allowing the “unchecked greedy expansion of student numbers” for refusing to look at cutting the number of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in the city.
A full council meeting in December passed a motion by Osbaldwick and Derwent councillor Mark Warters that committed the council to review its policy, with a view to cutting the number of new HMOs that can be created in built-up areas by half.
But council officers said reviewing the current rules on HMO concentrations could put the Local Plan, which is currently going through the examination process, at risk.
Cllr Warters said: “As for reviewing the supplementary planning documents somehow scuppering the Local Plan, I would hazard a guess it will be stuck by matters long before such detail is discussed.
“Doing nothing about this matter until the Local Plan is approved is absolutely ludicrous.”
Currently, a threshold of 20 per cent of all properties being HMOs across a neighbourhood and 10 per cent at street level has been established as the point at which a community can tip from “balanced to unbalanced.”
Cllr Warters, who represents a ward near the University of York, said: “In areas around the two universities the accommodation situation continues to spiral out of control.
“Unchecked greedy expansion of student numbers by the universities is blighting residential neighbourhoods, with increasing numbers of HMOs being waved through by this council, in addition to the unlawful ones that just start up – all in addition to the vast increase in off-campus student accommodation, it’s time to get this situation under control.”
The council’s decision not to review its policy showed it was “quite content to see the ongoing spread of the suburban campus into residential streets”, Cllr Warters added.
A council report said a review could be undertaken after the Local Plan is approved and noted that a plan for additional licensing for HMOs in high density areas is due to be discussed by the council’s executive in June.
Cllr Andrew Waller, executive member for economy and strategic planning, said: “I am conscious that there is interest in maintaining a mix within streets and ensuring that the existing policies are enforced… I appreciate it’s not quite as far as some members of council [would like].”
Executive member for housing and safer neighbourhoods, Cllr Denise Craghill, said any future review of the HMO concentration policy “would need to be based on a clearly set out process.”
She added: “HMOs play an important role in providing housing options in York. That isn’t just for students, but it’s for others, including young professionals and people on low incomes.
“I think these proposals are taking us in the right direction, with more robust data that can help us to balance communities across the city with the potential to further improve our data and the quality of HMO provision in future.”