In­vestors ‘shun’ York af­ter curb on stu­dent houses

A crack­down on ‘stu­den­ti­fi­ca­tion’ has brought fears of a two-tier prop­erty mar­ket and a short­age of homes to let in York. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

CON­CERNS over the pro­lif­er­a­tion of stu­dent houses in some parts of York have long echoed round the univer­sity city.

Now the coun­cil has taken dras­tic ac­tion. An Ar­ti­cle 4 di­rec­tion re­cently came into force, which means in­vestors will be forced to ap­ply for per­mis­sion if they want to turn a pri­vate dwelling into a rental prop­erty for three or more ten­ants.

Un­like other lo­cal au­thor­i­ties that use the plan­ning rule to curb “stu­den­ti­fi­ca­tion” of spe­cific ar­eas like Head­in­g­ley in Leeds and Jes­mond in New­cas­tle, York’s is city-wide.

While the owner-oc­cu­piers in Badger Hill, Hull Road and Os­bald­wick, who cam­paigned for the pol­icy, are thrilled, those who fought against it are not happy.

York Res­i­den­tial Land­lords As­so­ci­a­tion Chair­man Niall McTurk, of Sin­clair Prop­er­ties, says it is al­ready cre­at­ing a twotier prop­erty mar­ket.

Those prop­er­ties that are al­ready HMOs, houses in mul­ti­ple oc­cu­pa­tion, are now worth more than iden­ti­cal fam­ily homes in the same area that don’t have the rel­e­vant per­mis­sion.

“Homes that would’ve at­tracted a queue of in­vestors be­fore have started to drop in value,” says Niall.

“I also know an owner who wants to let her home to students while she re­lo­cates for work. She was ex­pect­ing £1,900 a month. As she is un­likely to get per­mis­sion un­der Ar­ti­cle 4, she is now faced with get­ting just £795 and is dev­as­tated.”

The RLA says land­lords are start­ing to shun York and this will re­sult in a “mas­sive short­age” of both stu­dent and pri­vate lets at a time when the na­tion needs more rental prop­erty.

It be­lieves the lack of sup­ply will also push rents up and qual­ity down.

“Why would an in­vestor buy here when he or she will then have to wait be­tween three and six months to see if they can get coun­cil per­mis­sion for a shared house? They won’t,” says Niall.

“That is bad news for students but also for young pro­fes­sion­als and those on low in­comes who want to share a house to keep costs down.

“Some land­lords who al­ready have HMOs are pleased be­cause lack of sup­ply will ben­e­fit their busi­ness but I am look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture. It’s bad for the econ­omy.”

He is an­gry and frus­trated that the coun­cil ig­nored con­cerns from the RLA, the Univer­sity of York, Na­tional Union of Students and the lo­cal Cham­ber of Com­merce, which said the move would “sti­fle and dra­mat­i­cally re­duce” ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions for em­ploy­ees of York firms.

How­ever, the City of York Coun­cil is un­re­pen­tant. The con­flict­ing life­styles of some young students and their grownup neigh­bours has al­ways been a prob­lem and this has been com­pounded by in­vestors buy­ing up fam­ily homes. It says the so­lu­tion is more pur­pose-built stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion.

“York is a small city with a rapidly ex­pand­ing stu­dent pop­u­la­tion. We need to keep a mix of prop­erty and we need to stop ar­eas like Badger Hill be­ing com­pletely taken over by stu­dent lets,” says Coun Dave Mer­rett, a mem­ber of the trans­port, plan­ning and sus­tain­abil­ity com­mit­tee.

“Rather than see the prob­lem of in­vestors buy­ing fam­ily homes dis­placed we de­cide to adopt the Ar­ti­cle 4 across the city.

“We are en­cour­ag­ing the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions to pro­vide more ac­com­mo­da­tion and we want to in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors to build more stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion here. We have even iden­ti­fied po­ten­tial sites for them.”

Down in Ox­ford, the city coun­cil has used a range of strate­gies to limit the num­ber of students in pri­vate rented prop­erty to 3,000, in­clud­ing Ar­ti­cle 4.

Si­mon Tyrrell, of Fin­ders Keep­ers Stu­dent Let­ting in Ox­ford, says the re­stric­tion has cre­ated is­sues.

“Land­lords are buy­ing to let to just two peo­ple or fam­i­lies be­cause they can’t be both­ered to try and get plan­ning per­mis­sion for a HMO. So we’re see­ing a short­age of prop­erty for three or more shar­ers be they students or young pro­fes­sion­als.

“An­other con­se­quence is that some fam­ily houses are blighted. Be­fore Ar­ti­cle 4 if you had a house in be­tween two HMOs that was up for sale an in­vestor would’ve snapped it up. Now it is hard to sell. A fam­ily doesn’t want to live there and an in­vestor won’t want to try and get the plan­ning con­sent.”

He doesn’t be­lieve pur­pose­built stu­dent blocks with bed­sits are the so­lu­tion.

“Students live in halls for a year then move out into the community and share with friends. They don’t want to live in a tiny room with an en-suite for three years. Even the new stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion providers ad­mit their big­gest chal­lenge is re­tain­ing students af­ter their first year.”

He sug­gests that in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors could build large four bed­room flats with two shower rooms for shar­ers.

“I’m not sure what the an­swer is, but when Labour en­cour­aged ev­ery­one to go univer­sity they didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about where all these young peo­ple were go­ing to live.”

BUILT TO LAST: Sire­bank House was con­verted with great care and at­ten­tion to de­tail and is now a beau­ti­ful fam­ily home with mag­nif­i­cent views.It dates back to 1800, when an en­tre­pre­neur was given the task of cre­at­ing more farm land, and it has been in the Thorn­ton fam­ily since 1932.

DE­GREE OF CON­FLICT: A new rule re­strict­ing the growth of stu­dent lets has prompted claims that in­vestors are now turn­ing away from York.

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