New controls on controversial HMOs approved for Sunderland

New controls for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) on Wearside have been given the seal of approval by council chiefs.

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 6:00 am
Cllr Rebecca Atkinson, cabinet member for Dynamic City

HMOs are generally defined as properties where three or more people, who do not form one household, are living together.

While recognising the part the property types play in providing housing within the private rented sector, the SPD noted the “harmful impacts” associated with high numbers.

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This included reduced social cohesion, housing choice and community engagement and other issues such as noise, disturbance and on-street parking.

The new guidance, which was approved by the city council’s ruling cabinet on Tuesday, December 8, will allow the authority to ‘control the development’ of new HMOs.

This includes preventing the ‘sandwiching effect’ where a residential dwelling would become located between two HMOs.

In addition, the rules would aim to prevent the development of new HMOs where more than 10% of the residential units within 100 metres of the application site are already in use as a HMO.

The guidance would apply to all planning applications for new HMOs.

Councillor Kevin Johnston, deputy cabinet member for Dynamic City, said the SPD would be a “real positive change” and would give the council more control to manage the development of HMOs across Sunderland.

Councillor Rebecca Atkinson, cabinet member for Dynamic City, also thanked council officers and Cllr Johnston for working on the project.

“[Cllr Johnston] has really had tenacity and empathy with residents and councillors who have had to deal with a range of issues both good and bad in relation to HMOs,” she said.

“I really welcome this report, it’s been a lot of hard work and I really think it shows a step change in the council of us listening and reacting to our residents and their needs.”

Councillors heard that no ‘substantive comments’ were made on the SPD following a four-week consultation.

However, minor amendments were made to reflect that when applicants seek a certificate of lawfulness to demonstrate 10 years of occupancy, evidence of occupancy will “need to be a standard which meets the council’s satisfaction.”

Councillor Linda Williams, cabinet member for Vibrant City, also welcomed the new controls.

“I think HMOs have caused some difficulties in certain areas of the city, it must be a nightmare if you’re sandwiched between two, so this is going to stop that and spread groups around,” she said.

“There is nothing wrong with an HMO but it is very much about, lets not crowd everything in.

“Planning in the past was always about having the same houses all over, now we’re very much about having that range.

“The estate I live on has a range of different types of housing to meet different community needs and I think that’s the best way to get people to form a community, rather than just having housing of one type.

“This [SPD] is absolutely brilliant to get to the point of getting that balance for residents and for people who need this accommodation.”

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