The districts of Bath “decimated” by the multiplication of shared houses

Plans to reduce the number of family homes being turned into shared houses are too late for some ‘decimated’ neighborhoods, a Bath councilor said.

In Triangle North, a row of terraces in Westmoreland once popular with first-time buyers, 24 of the 28 homes have been converted into multiple-occupancy homes, or HMOs.

Ward Councilor June Player estimates that during the school term, students on the streets outnumber permanent residents by 20 times, and said the last families to leave told her they “don’t.” could more ”.

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Triangle North resident Bob Eames said: “It used to be first-time buyers here. It changed because the university got so good and attracted people from all over the world. The numbers have gone up and up.

He praised the University of Bath for stepping in when the parties get out of hand, but said students are fine if you get to know them and set some ground rules early.

“In general, it’s not too bad at all,” he said. “We’ve been here for 25 years and have had four really bad years. There is a lack of continuity. Some families could not cope.

Westmoreland Councilor June Player and her dog Alfie in Triangle North. Stephen sumner

Pauline Woods, from neighbor Triangle East, had a different perspective on the student body.

“They don’t care about anything,” she said. “During the lockdown, they were in and out of each other’s houses and thought we didn’t see each other.

“It’s an absolute nightmare. In Triangle East, we need a parking lot reserved for residents of Triangle East.

There are approximately 2,300 HMOs across Bath. Southdown Cllr Paul Crossley has previously said the city’s “HMO-ification” attracts “more anger and frustration than any other” problem. Properties are also prevalent in Oldfield and Widcombe.

The B & NES Council's HMO register shows how widespread they are.  B & NES advice.
The B & NES Council’s HMO register shows how widespread they are. B & NES advice.

While HMOs are also a mainstay of young professionals, contract workers, immigrants and housing allowance recipients, Cllr Player said that in Westmoreland the vast majority are occupied by students.

“It’s not that people are anti-students – it’s a huge concentration. They drive around trying to find any parking space, like non-students.

“Come on vacation, people say ‘yep, we’ve got our parking spaces back’, but the streets look deserted to them.

“We are overloaded during the school period and empty during the holidays. It gives an air of neglect.

The burgeoning reputation of the two universities in Bath has transformed the region, with huge benefits for some.

Moorland Road in Bath.  Stephen sumner
Moorland Road in Bath. Stephen sumner

The bustling Moorland Road has adapted to accommodate students, with a growing number of restaurants, such as Magu, a burger restaurant recently named one of the top 30 in the UK.

A glance in a real estate agent’s window shows that four-bed HMOs are regularly rented for over £ 2,000 per month.

“It’s one of the most lucrative businesses,” said Cllr Player.

Bath and North East Somerset Council have previously withdrawn the development right authorized to convert Bath houses into small HMOs, with additional checks indicating that no more than one in four houses within a 100-meter radius can be made into an HMO.

New proposals submitted for consultation would raise this ratio to one in ten.

With HMOs in Westmoreland at saturation point, homeowners, who Mr. Eames said often have more than a dozen properties, are looking to expand the ones they have.

But despite the cap on HMO numbers, Cllr Player said family homes were still being lost as they were turned into apartments or rented out on platforms like Airbnb.

“We desperately need family homes,” she said. The current mayor of Bath called the new 10% rule “excellent” but added: “For a neighborhood like Westmoreland we have been devastated by it all.

“Nothing is retrospective. It is too late for a parish like ours.

Cllr Player was already active in the community when she first ran for office as an independent 10 years ago because there was no one else she wanted to vote for. It officially adopted Oldfield Park station and transformed its appearance.

“What really disappoints our region is the state of the gardens and all the waste. Students are a transient population. They have no direct interest in the region.

“A lot more responsibility for the condition of properties should fall on owners. “

The council is also working to make sure homes are safe to live in after a 2018 inspection found “significant” health and safety risks at 31% of HMOs – more than 900 properties.

The new proposals would require homeowners to provide a good standard of housing, for measures such as room size and noise reduction, as well as an energy performance certificate of C or higher.

Councilor Tim Ball
Councilor Tim Ball

Planning and Licensing Cabinet Member Cllr Tim Ball said: “The private rental housing market in Bath is complex and there is a diverse demand for flexible housing.

“HMOs are occupied by a wide range of groups, including young professionals, students, immigrants, asylum seekers, housing benefit recipients and contract workers. They therefore have an important role to play in Bath’s economy.

“HMOs have traditionally been more concentrated in certain areas of the city, particularly in the areas of Oldfield, Westmoreland and Widcombe.

“By changing the way we assess planning applications for HMOs, we aim to encourage a sustainable community in Bath and the wider district, by supporting a wide variety of households in all areas.”

The proposals contained in the Supplementary Planning Document will be subject to public consultation from August 27 to October 8. The council said it would make a special effort to engage with occupants and owners / owners of HMOs.

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