Agenda item

Update on the work of Consultants - Eastbourne Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Study


Leigh Palmer, Head of Planning, introduced the report which provided background to the request from the Scrutiny Committee for an update on licenced houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) in Eastbourne Borough, and the commissioning of consultants to provide data on HMOs. It was highlighted to Members that the update and the report that would follow would not include recommendations for policy direction but instead, were an analysis of the current situation, based on evidence gathered through the Study. It would be for Members of the Council to decide if further scrutiny or action was required.


Paul Avery, Principal Housing Consultant, AECOM, gave a presentation to the Committee which updated Members on the objectives of the Study, which was to provide a robust, evidence-based analysis of the role and impact of HMOs in Eastbourne. The Study covered:


·       A review of the current HMOs policy and associated literature.

·       An exploration of the current numbers of HMOs.

·       The physical condition of the HMOs (the study precluded the internal inspection of properties).

·       The impact of HMOs on occupants, communities and neighbourhoods.

·       The role of HMOs in the housing market.


During discussion, the following points were highlighted:


·       There had been a delay in the production of the report, and there was one dataset that was due to be provided by the Council’s Housing Team. Once received, the report would be complete.


·       The Housing Team had a diarised inspection regime and responded to risk areas such as mould damp and dangerous electrics. Previous inspection monitoring by the Council had not been included in the Study, as it was considered that a fresh approach would provide a more balanced review. Members considered that previous monitoring regimes and more information on the internal condition of HMOs was needed to provide a more thorough analysis.


·       The suggested interventions were part of the research undertaken, including a review of interventions taken by other authorities, and discussions with those authorities to understand which interventions were successful and how this had been evidenced. The original report to the Cabinet, which initiated the commissioning of the Study, had also included interventions put forward by the Council’s Planning Team.


·       There were a number of HMOs that were managed individually or as part of a cluster. Some were managed by third-sector organisations that offered temporary accommodation. The benefit or negative impact of an HMO on the area around it could be determined by how well the HMO was managed. It was unusual for the manager/owner of the HMO to live in the property, although the Study had not included this level of investigation.


·       The model of an HMO with a live-in manager or a usable room that could provide shared space for residents was considered useful. It had potential for reducing anti-social behaviour that could otherwise end up in public areas. This would, however, impact on the revenue for owners/landlords from the property.


·       The model used for the doorstep interviews involved identifying sample areas with the highest percentage of HMO’s and randomly sampled addresses in those areas chosen for an interview. The same process was used for low control areas with low HMO concentrations.


·       Communication, engagement with communities and addressing negative perceptions of HMO’s were areas that could be focused on.


·       Members asked that the dataset required to complete the report be provided at the earliest available opportunity.


Resolved to note the update.

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