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Welsh planning authorities get new HMO powers

Words: Laura Edgar
House share / Shutterstock_292953437

Natural resources minister Carl Sargeant has released new legislation to give planning authorities in Wales the opportunity to manage the impact of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in their areas.

The new legislation will introduce a new use class (C4) for HMOs occupied by more not more than six residents.

This means that anyone wanting to create a new HMO for between three and six unrelated people who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom would have to apply for planning permission.

The Welsh Government said the aim is to allow local planning authorities to consider the effects such dwellings might have on local areas before deciding whether to approve planning permission or refuse it.

The legislation, due to come into force on 25 February, was developed following recommendations made in an independent report, including amending the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 to give Welsh local authorities the power to manage the development of HMOs with fewer than seven residents.

The report also recommended taking action to safeguard the confidence of residents in areas with large numbers of HMOs, while at the same time protecting the rights of those people living in them.

Sargeant said HMOs make an important contribution to the private rented sector by catering for a variety of needs, including for people who cannot afford to buy.

But he added, the report found “large concentrations of HMOs can bring their own problems to local areas. This new legislation will allow planning authorities to take action to manage the number of HMOs in their local area”.

Roisin Willmott, director of Wales and Northern Ireland, said HMOs have been previously been controlled through licensing outside the planning system, which only considers the condition of the housing provision.

"In some parts of Wales, the cumulative impact of multiple HMOs in concentrated areas can cause significant issues. By introducing this new measure, local planning authorities will have an opportunity to manage the development of this form of housing use. However, they will need to ensure they have guidance and plans to deal with this. It must also be acknowledged that this comes at a time when local planning authorities in Wales are facing budget restrictions, and this will add an additional area for them to deal with," added Willmott.

She said it would be important to retain the licensing provisions to deal with the standard of the housing itself.

"HMOs are a necessary part of the housing mix required to meet housing needs in Wales."

RTPI Cymru is a partner in the Homes for Wales campaign, which is calling for the next Welsh Government to end the housing crisis and in so doing build a stronger Wales.

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