Thursday, 19 April 2012

Lib Dems Act To Defeat Move To Restrict Shared Homes

Cllr Catherine Smart
(LD, Romsey)

Liberal Democrats will tonight (Thursday, April 19) call on their city council colleagues to reject a Labour move to restrict the number of shared houses in Cambridge.

They will also ask for rejection of Labour’s demands to look at options for regulating houses in multiple occupation.

And they will advise the council that smaller shared houses, where three or more people live in two or more unrelated households, cannot be licensed because conditions required to meet the legislation are not present in Cambridge at the moment; the situation will continue to be monitored.

The Lib Dems have raised an amendment to a Labour motion calling for the restriction and will ask the city council to “recognise the vital contribution that well-run houses make in providing homes for family, students, professionals and migrant workers”.

Catherine Smart, Romsey Councillor and Deputy Leader of Cambridge City Councillor said: “Without shared housing many people living and working in our city would not be able to do so. Property prices make home ownership unaffordable for many in Cambridge but they can live in the city by sharing the cost of renting.

“We are fortunate that we have a diverse mix of people in our city and we don’t want to discourage that. This could be bad for our economy and our community in general.

“It is vital, therefore, that we make sure we support the contribution made by these properties and the people who live there. But at the same time, we do acknowledge that not all of them are run as well as they could be and sometimes there are problems as there are with all types of housing. We have procedures in place to deal with this.”

Lib Dems will ask for an annual report to be brought to the council’s Community Services Committee detailing the number and type of complaints received by the Environmental Health Department in all types of housing in the city and how they have been dealt with, including the number of prosecutions.

The full wording of the Lib Dem amendment is as follows:

'The Council recognises the vital contribution that shared rented housing makes in providing homes for students, professionals, migrant workers and many people on low incomes.   It acknowledges that housing is expensive in Cambridge and that this is the only way many people can afford to live in the city.

Council therefore rejects the idea of limiting the number of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in the city or part of the city.  If restrictions are put in place, rents would rise and people would quickly be priced out of the city.   Making it difficult for people to access shared housing in the city, could have a disastrous effect on the economy of the area.  

Council notes the desire of some to “extend the current HMO definition to include all properties with 3 or more people in two or more unrelated households, regardless of the building layout”  but also notes that the conditions required in the legislation are not present in Cambridge to extend the licensing system in this way and agrees that it should be kept under review.    However, Council also recognises that the implementation of the licensing of smaller properties can be deeply intrusive and lead to complex enquiries about details of people's relationships and domestic arrangements which are no business of the council.  Any extension of the licensing system would need to be framed to avoid this.

The Council also notes that, while the majority of landlords are responsible and manage their houses in a satisfactory way, a minority are not, causing severe problems both to their tenants and to the neighbours.   It further notes that while the majority of residents are responsible people, some are not and are inconsiderate, irresponsible and cause considerable problems to their neighbours

The Council therefore endorses the actions of the Environmental Health Officers in responding to complaints and working towards changing the behaviour of the irresponsible minority in all types of tenure whether landlords, tenants or home-owners.     It notes that advice, warnings, enforcement letters, injunctions, confiscations and full prosecution are all used to this end. 

However, Council requests that an annual report is brought to Community Services Scrutiny Committee detailing the number and type of complaints received by the Environmental Health Department and how they have been dealt with, including the number of prosecutions."

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