Following three years of work by a cross party group of councillors, Bristol Council is consulting on a new housing planning policy designed to foster mixed and balanced communities by controlling the number of shared houses in any one area.
The policy would restrict the proportion of Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in certain parts of the city, setting a threshold of 10%. If approved, new HMO developments in areas of Cotham, Clifton Down and other HMO hotspots would be refused permission except in exceptional circumstances. The policy has been proposed in response to a rapid expansion of this type of housing in recent years, which has restricted supply of other types of homes and caused friction between residents in some parts of the city.
The new policy also sets higher quality standards for HMOs in an attempt to improve housing conditions: room sizes, sound insulation and bin and bike storage.
The proposed policy is available to view and comment on at https://www.bristol.gov.uk/planning-and-building-regulations/review-draft-hmo-planning-document and closes on Friday 11 September.
Green councillor Clive Stevens helped design the policy with a small group of councillors from other parties, including Lib Dem Councillor Anthony Negus, Conservative Councillor Mark Weston and Labour Councillors Paul Smith and Nicola Beech. Councillor Stevens said the over-concentration of this type of housing is exacerbating the city’s housing crisis and leading to repeated complaints from residents over issues such as noise pollution and waste, but he saves most of his criticism for Bristol University for rapidly expanding but failing to provide enough student housing.
Councillor Stevens said:
“Way back in January 2017 I spoke at a Council meeting about how the unmanaged growth of Bristol’s universities (especially University of Bristol) was affecting our city’s housing market and thus the high rent and poor quality of accommodation suffered by students and others. Not enough halls of residence meant too many conversions of homes into HMOs. And in parts of Bristol an over-concentration has also created conflict between residents and students and led to complaints over noise and waste.
“Since 2017 I’ve been working cross-party with Labour, Tory and Lib Dem councillors to find a solution, and the result is the Council’s new HMO policy that’s just gone out for consultation. This will set higher quality standards for HMOs and prevent new ones from being developed in areas where they already make up 10% or more of properties. I hope it will lead to a more balanced housing mix that works for long-term residents, students and others.”