Council direction described as “discriminatory”

York City Council is putting forward legislation that would severely limit the location of student housing.

The Article 4 Direction, if achieved, will affect both University of York students and York St. John students – a population conservatively estimated at 15,000 students.

The decision, which is to be taken at a meeting today, will limit student housing as residences will have to pass planning permission in order to be occupied by students. This means that local areas could effectively block the planning application of a homeowner seeking to convert their property for use by students.

A University spokesperson commented on the planned change to legislation, stating: “We do not believe the proposal would be in the interests of our students, many of whom prefer to live in and be part of the local community for part of their time while studying at the University.”

“This is a discriminatory piece of legislation that is detrimental to students and York as a whole”

YUSU President Tim Ellis

Tim Ellis, YUSU President, also commented on the Council direction jointly with the President of York St John Students’ Union in a blog post.

“We believe an Article 4 Direction will be extremely damaging for our off-campus students who are likely to be forced further away from the university and also that this is a discriminatory piece of legislation that is detrimental to students and York as a whole.

“We also firmly believe that it will not address the issues that are being used to justify its’ implementation.”

In the past student housing, more commonly known as House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) was only defined as a habitation in which five or more people lived, using shared facilities, and over three floors. This meant that few properties were caught in this classification, and as a result owners could convert residences into student housing without applying for planning permission.

Changes in April 2010 meant that smaller houses (that were being converted for, or from, student use) were defined as ‘small’ HMO, therefore requiring planning permission. However, an amendment in October 2010, called Permitted Development Right, resulted in owners not having to gain planning permission.

The legislation currently being considered will override these amendments. An Article 4 Direction allows York Council to request planning permission for any change in occupation use.

The council is trying to pass an Article 4 Direction over the entire York-city area, however, the properties which it applies to appear limited to student accommodation. This would mean that in order to convert a house for student rental, the owner must first apply to the council for an HMO license, and planning permission.

This move by the council has been linked to a number of complaints from local communities about the presence of students in their area. These communities allege that the perceived presence of large numbers of students raises the crime levels, late-night disturbances, and littering in their area.

The University spokesperson has refuted this allegation, claiming: “We believe that City of York Council already has sufficient powers under the 2004 Housing Act to tackle problems caused by the very small minority of irresponsible landlords, tenants and/or mismanaged properties.”

In addition the passing of a Direction 4 would not act retrospectively, so those residences already housing students would not be required to seek planning permission.

This would nullify the local communities aim to lower anti-social behaviour as although there could be no new student housing, those already there would remain where they were.

Nathan Marks, a third-year student currently living in the Hull Road area, said: “one possible outcome is that they will be more susceptible to burglaries – especially in the holidays when the students go home.”

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