Fife Council is consulting on two options for regulating HMO numbers in St Andrews – a ‘3% increase in HMOs’ and a 0% increase (Community and Housing Services Committee’s current preference). A 3% increase may not seem much until you realise that it is 3% of St Andrews housing stock and not 3% of existing HMOs. The result would be devastating – an increase of 30% in the number of non-university HMOs, a loss of some 200 family homes and a further reduction by nearly 500 in the town’s permanent resident population, which has already fallen below that of student population.
The rental market in St Andrews is distorted by a dominant player, the University, which provides accommodation for only 50% of its 9000 enrolled students (set to rise to 10,000 by 2023), leaving the remainder to look for accommodation in private HMOs. In the scramble for the ever-diminishing non-HMO housing stock, Buy-to-Let Investors will nearly always out-compete families and young professionals, including university staff.
In the Conservation Area, where students now account for 85% of the population, there are already streets with 50% or more HMOs and most of the rest have more than 20%. In the Western ‘suburbs’ (i.e. beyond City Rd / Bridge St and West of Largo Rd), the 3% option would result in a doubling of the number of HMOs and in the South / East of the town, a 60% increase.
Even with HMO numbers held at current levels, the HMO market, accounting for 15% of the overall housing stock in St Andrews, is 6-12 times that of other Scottish university towns. There is already an acute shortage of private and social housing in St Andrews. More than 160 ex-council houses have been lost to HMOs via Right-to-Buy and more will follow if there is no cap on numbers.
The Students Association, University, landlords and agents are lobbying hard for the 3% rise, if not an abolition of the cap altogether. This an attempt to redress the balance by putting the views of the permanent residents whose voice tends to get drowned out by the University’s Press Office and other powerful lobbyists. Students deserve good quality affordable accommodation during the 26-week teaching year, but not be at the expense of family homes. Further expansion of student numbers should be matched by an equivalent volume of purpose-built accommodation.
SELECT OPTION 1 to Retain St Andrews Housing for Families!
For more information about the St Andrews HMO problem, go to: https://standrewsqv.org.uk/2018/11/the-st-andrews-hmo-problem-where-we-are-and-how-we-got-there/