New government legislation plans will require student landlords to obtain planning permission before renovating family homes into student houses in residential York areas, such as Badger Hill.
The new law, implemented on April 6 2010, has caused fears of ghettoisation and student alienation from community areas.
One landlord, who owns several properties in the Badger Hill area, has said that the new planning law will obligate him to publicly declare changes he makes on properties. This has actively discouraged him from renovating any more Badger Hill properties for students in the future because he feels that residents in the area would protest against more student houses being introduced.
He added that the meeting in which these changes were explained was “very rushed”, that “no documents were given”, and that the landlords were “given no guidelines” on how the law would be fully implemented.
This follows outrage over a letter sent out to residents of Badger Hill last month, which protests that York Council, North Yorkshire Police and the University have received an “ever increasing number of complaints from residents regarding serious anti-social behaviour and noise generated by some of the local student population.” The letter adds: “Sadly, Badger Hill is developing a very negative reputation due to all this unnecessary trouble!”
YUSU Democracy and Services Officer, Lewis Bretts, has called the letter a kind of “organised discrimination”, arguing that “if instead of ‘students’ it said ‘blacks’, ‘homosexuals’ or ‘muslims’ it would rightly be illegal.”
The letter continues: “The time has come for owners, landlords and letting agents to take more responsibility for the actions of these inconsiderate individuals and to rectify the condition of some of the student houses and gardens, many of which are in an absolutely
This is despite one member of York Council telling Nouse that he would be “perfectly happy to live in a student area” and that residents have to be adaptable to change due to “socio-economic reasons”.
He concurred with landlord concern over the abruptness of the legislation, adding that it was “rushed through without much literature.” The councillor continued in saying that the new laws could lead to “student ghettoisation” in areas such as Tang Hall, similar to notorious student areas such as Fallowfield in Manchester and Headingley in Leeds.
A second-year English literature student, who lives in Badger Hill, but did not receive the letter, said: “I am offended by what students are accused of in this letter. My housemates and I have always respected the local community, tried to maintain the noise and the cleanliness of our house, and have never caused any trouble to anyone.
“If instead of ‘students’ it said ‘blacks’, ‘homosexuals’ or ‘muslims’ it would rightly be illegal.”
YUSU Democracy and Services Officer
“There is a reason why students choose Badger Hill – it is safe and the houses are well-furnished. This kind of legislation could cause concentrations of students in places where people don’t really want to live, such as Tang Hall.”
This follows reports made by Nouse earlier in the year about students suffering sustained harassment from teenagers in Tang Hall.
Another Badger Hill student resident, Chris Montenaro, said: “I think the kind of perspective that students cause a hassle is quite inward looking, it’s quite parochial. Frankly, students in the nine months that they’re actually living in the places are contributing an extraordinary amount to the local economy.”
James Alexander, YUSU President from 2004-5, and current Labour Parliamentary Candidate for York Outer, has accused the University of not creating enough accommodation on Heslington East during its initial expansion last year, and that they have thus missed an opportunity to prevent family houses being converted to student lets.
Alexander told Nouse: “I think students provide a great and much needed diversity to local communities and I think mixed communities should be maintained, but I think it isn’t beneficial for students or the local community to simply live in a separate area.”
Despite evidence that students contribute to the community, Alexander added: “I would personally like to see more campus accommodation.”
In response to Alexander’s accusations, David Garner, the University Press Officer, said: “The University cannot compel students to live on campus and it cannot exert any direct influence on the open housing market.
“We are, however, committed to providing accommodation to meet the growth in student numbers associated with Heslington East, and in the last three years we have added nearly 1,000 bed spaces.”
The new legislation will now define student houses as a new Use Class, ‘C4 Houses in Multiple Occupation’, whereas they were previously classed under the generic Use Class, ‘C3 Dwellinghouses’, which is what family houses are classed under.
Paul Edward, of York Council, said: “We will implement the new legislation fairly and evenly, and we are now waiting on the government for further clarification.”