York’s student resident population has been caught up in a political decision which will force rents to rise and discriminate against students attempting to find off-campus housing.
After conducting research which categorises students as negative contributors to York, the City of York Council have decided to impose a city-wide Article Four Direction next year, meaning that the conversion of any ‘normal’ house to a house in multiple occupation (HMO) will need planning permission from the Council.
Despite a twelve month consultation period before its introduction, a large proportion of student houses in York are HMOs and an Article Four Direction will victimise the future number of houses available for student groups.
Pro-Vice Chancellor for Students, Jane Grenville, stated: “it’s a policy that could be very detrimental to students.”
Student rent costs are likely to rise considerably as properties available in close proximity to the University will be in higher demand. While student numbers will continue to rise, landlords will be unable to convert enough properties for the student residency once the Council enforces thresholds on certain popular roads. As a result students will be forced to live further away from the University.
The University has revealed potential plans for a third College to be built on the Heslington East campus, but next year’s returning students will be unable to apply for on-campus accommodation. This year the University has also admitted over 450 students more than their official projections and while “the situation is expected to change”, is as yet unconfirmed.
Both the University and YUSU have expressed their opposition to the Direction, although the University were not present at the public meeting where the decision took place last week.
The Council’s verdict was decided after complaints made by local residents about levels of ‘anti-social behaviour’, noise, and littering, were believed to be linked with student residents. A report produced by the Council implies that areas with large student populations negatively contribute to the York’s anti-social behaviour and crime rates. However, the rate of reported criminal activity in half of the twelve highest areas of student residency was shown to be under the City of York’s average rate.
Last week a petition of 585 signatures was collected in opposition to the Direction by other local residents. However, Councillors appear to be in agreement that the decision is resolute unless consultation extensively proves otherwise.
The Direction will only control the number of student HMOs in a given area, yet will not directly address these perceived social concerns raised by approximately 200 local residents who signed a petition in favour of the Direction.
Many have described the Direction as having a political agenda, with the local elections coming later this year in May.
By introducing an Article Four Direction, the Council will thresholds for the number of student houses in multiple occupation (HMO) on certain roads. In support, Liberal Democrat Councillor, Steve Galloway, admitted that in theory a threshold of 30 per cent “would have an effect in some existing streets”.
Areas like Tang Hall, Heworth and Hull Road contain student populations of over twenty per cent of the overall residency. Since 2000 the number of student households in one part of Tang Hall has risen by 600 per cent.
Galloway referred to the term ‘studentification’, citing that “there’s a tendency not surprisingly of HMOs near places of study. One effect of the Direction would be to spread that out a little more.”
Students will find it increasingly difficult to live in popular areas where the number of HMOs is likely to remain static after the Direction’s introduction. Student letting agent, Adam Bennett, believes increases will be dependent on campus expansion, and that rents could rise to over £90 per week: “rents will go through the ceiling because landlords will charge whatever they want.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if the Council change land from being green belt to create a student village,” he continued.
York’s Liberal Democrat Leader, Councillor Andrew Waller stated: “We wouldn’t want the SU Presidents to think it’s anti-student, or persecution. It’s not a response to high levels of anti-social behaviour.” Yet the Council’s 24 page report on the “spatial distribution of student housing” details ‘evidence’ about anti-social littering and noise disruption from students; concerns primarily raised by local residents.
The Council’s research also shows that half of the twelve areas where student residency has increased the most over the past decade are below the City’s average rate of reported crime. Five of these areas, two on Heslington Road, are both below York’s average rate of reported anti-social behaviour, and had no reported cases of littering. Areas of reported incidents of noise complaints are largely within the vicinity of main roads used by passing traffic, such as Hull Road and Heslington Road.
Niall McTurk, York Residential Landlords Association (York RLA) Chairman, has termed the discriminations against students as ‘social engineering’. “The Council seem hell-bent on it being students that they’re against, but it affects professional sharers too.”
“The problem is that people on Badger Hill have been the biggest whinges,” summarised Bennett. Badger Hill is an area in which student households are under a fifth of its total population.
The University did not send a representative to appear alongside YUSU President, Tim Ngwena, when the Council Executive made their decision on February 2, but did send a letter articulating that the Direction would not be in the interest of York’s students: “there is no clear evidence that HMOs in York have a detrimental effect on the local community.”
Concerns have been raised over the months before the Direction is enforced. Both Ngwena and York St. John Student Union President, Leigh Hankinson, have voiced that York may incur a “flurry of unregulated development…potentially raising the proportion of student HMOs and consequential social conflict, by a considerable level in certain areas.” A HMO Accreditation Scheme may be under consideration by the Council, which YUSU is keen to promote.
York City Council
Steve Galloway: Liberal Democrat Councillor
“there’s a tendency not surprisingly of HMOs near places of study. One effect of the Direction would be to spread that out a little more.”
Andrew Waller: leader of the Liberal Democrat group
“We wouldn’t want the SU Presidents to think it’s anti-student, or persecution.”
Versus the rest
Jane Grenville: Pro-Vice Chancellor for students
“no clear evidence that HMOs have detrimental effects on the local community…Brian [Cantor, Vice-Chancellor] feels passionately about students not being discriminated against in this political debate”
The Students’ Union
Tim Ngwena: YUSU President
“this could lead to a flurry of unregulated development…potentially raising the proportion of student HMOs and consequential social conflict”
The York Residents Landlords Association
“This is social engineering. Council seem hell bent on it being students they’re against…little do they realise that 17000 students in York have a vote.”
The Letting Agents
“Rents will go through the ceiling because landlords will charge whatever they want.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if the Council change land…to create a student village”
The move of Langwith College to Heslington East will provide 650 additional bedspaces, but this is likely be overshadowed as the University has exceeded their projections for the intake of student numbers for the next academic year by over 450 more than their enrolment projections in 2009.
The University have claimed that they will respond to the Council’s consultation, but have not announced the details of any further action they will take. Councillors have openly recognised the role that the University plays in the city’s economy. Last year, the Council agreed to give the University £3m towards the funding of the swimming pool due to open in 2012, in the York Sport Village. Ngwena described the University’s input to be “paramount as part of the stakeholder consultation.”
Pro-Vice Chancellor for Students, Jane Grenville, stated: “it’s a policy that could be very detrimental to students. To counter it, the University has put in a formal comment explaining our objections.
“Brian [Cantor, University Vice-Chancellor] feels very passionately about students not being discriminated against in this political debate.”
Waller recognises that students “play a very important part” in York’s financial market, yet believes the University responsible for providing accommodation.
“The University tells me that they provide so much accommodation, then there’s a ‘choice’ factor. They feel they’ll be building accommodation left empty.”
Ex-YUSU President and York’s Labour Leader, James Alexander is not “ruling out alternatives” yet believes “at the moment the Directive will go forward”.
McTurk claims the Council have “ignored everything we’ve presented”, including a 585 signature petition against the Direction. York RLA have therefore issued a notification of intent to take legal action due to unsatisfactory justification and predetermination of the outcome before consultation.
He described the Direction’s “hidden agenda” as a perceived voter-winner in local elections. “Little do they realise that 17000 students in York have a vote.”