This is the speech I made when putting a motion to full council on December 14th.  The motion called for the Council to restrict Houses In Multiple Occupation in the inner town area to 10% in a 50 metre radius.

Madam Mayor

It is recognised that Houses in Multiple Occupancy - HMOs - are an important source of lower cost housing within the private rented sector. However this needs to be balanced against the demand for family accommodation. 

In Northampton the areas most affected are the town centre wards, Castle, Abington, Semilong , Trinity , Kingsley and St James. Many residential roads in these wards comprise of Victorian terraced  houses built to accommodate the families of workers engaged in the boot and shoe manufacturing industries and are still, today ideal family homes. The lower house prices and smaller houses in these town centre wards  also make the of clusters of HMOs and the reduction of the availability of family housing more likely.

The clustering of HMO accommodation has an adverse impact on the amenity and wellbeing of surrounding occupiers due to excessive noise, nuisance, anti-social behaviour, pressure on parking and dumping of rubbish, mattresses and furniture.

The conversion of family houses to small HMOs can cause harm by producing communities within which there is a lack of balance in the housing mix and placing additional housing pressure on existing family housing. Mixed and balanced communities are sustainable and cohesive.

HMOs play an important part in providing low cost housing for students, migrant workers, single people, and those on low income and benefits. Many residents of HMOs can be vulnerable and easily exploited by unscrupulous landlords. To quote a recently overheard landlord who was evicting a family and turning this family home he owned into a HMO  - 'it is to maximise my investment'. However, there are also good and responsible landlords and they need to be encouraged to continue their good practice.

 It is recognised that this Council is taking robust action to address the misery and suffering caused by the criminal and irresponsible landlords and are making huge efforts to identify substandard and unlicensed HMOs. The number of unlicensed HMOs in this town is considerable, last week I submitted over 50 addresses of suspected unlicensed HMOs  in Trinity alone, to the officers.

With the continued identification of unlicensed HMOs the Council will be in a better position to balance and serve the needs of all members of the community, and minimise harming the social and environmental conditions of these vulnerable town centre wards by the clustering of HMOs within an area.

At present the Article 4 directive limits the density of HMOs to 15% within a 50 metre radius. This Council asks the relevant Cabinet members and the appropriate senior officers to investigate the possibility of having no more that 10% of HMOs within a 50 metre radius  in the town centre and 10% per 100 metres for the rest of the borough.

With the need to ensure mixed and balanced communities I know of  Portsmouth, Birmingham and Southampton authorities who consider no more than 10% of HMOs within a 50 metre area surrounding the application property, to be acceptable. I ask for your support in this matter to investigate the introduction of the same for our town.

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