Questions raised over HiMOs

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A BUCKINGHAM man expressed concern about houses in multiple occupation, or HiMOs, at the annual town meeting, at Buckingham Community Centre, on Wednesday night.

James Darke, of Meadway, said he represented the concerns of other residents on Meadway about the proliferation of HiMOs in the area. And he asked members of Buckingham Town Council what they had done about the issue.

HiMOs are houses or flats which are let to three or more unrelated tenants.

In Buckingham, it appears increasing numbers of landlords are seeing the financial potential of converting properties into HiMOs to let to students.

Mr Darke said HiMOs have three detrimental effects on the area – they exacerbate the private rental crisis, have a negative effect on homeowners in adjacent properties and have the potential to cause long-lasting damage to social cohesion.

Town councillor Warren Whyte explained that planning law was changed last year to allow landlords to rent properties as HiMOs without having to apply for planning permission.

Where a council feels it needs more control over development, it is possible to issue an Article 4 Direction, meaning planning permission is required when converting a property into a HiMO. Milton Keynes Council has introduced two Article 4 Directions in different areas of the town.

Councillor Whyte said the increase in HiMOs is “having a huge impact on the rental market”. He said: “We’ve asked the district council for an Article 4 Directive. Sadly, they’ve declined to do that.”

In February, Councillor Robin Stuchbury, who is also a district councillor, asked cabinet member for planned development Sue Polhill if AVDC would review its position on Article 4 Directions, “recognising the effect that Buckingham University is having on the town’s housing stock”?

But Councillor Polhill said: “We have no evidence available to us to demonstrate that there is a problem from such uses which would justify us trying to override the national planning control framework.”

Mr Stuchbury told the meeting: “I will seek some further way of pursuing this as an elected member. Not to do this would be a retrograde move for the whole community.”