Alliance South Belfast representative, Allan Leonard, has demanded that
only 20% of dwellings should be allowed to be HMOs (Houses of Multiple
Occupancy) in designated areas of Belfast. This is less than the 30%
previously proposed by the Planning Service. He has also called for the
Holyland area to be included, in order to restore more family
occupation in the area.
Leonard stated: “While the Alliance Party welcomes the long overdue
policy initiative to regulate the development of HMOs in Northern
Ireland, the authorities have appeared to have forgotten how this has
come about – extreme over-development in the Holyland area, which has
been well documented.
“The Planning Service has inexplicably renamed the Holyland as
‘University’ and excluded it from the proposed 30% HMO limit. The
reality is that an estimated 85%-plus of Holyland dwellings are HMOs. I
see no reason why a much lower limit for the rest of Belfast can’t be
applied to the Holyland. This isn’t about evicting tenants, but
ensuring that no retrospective permission is given for an HMO and that
no new HMO dwellings are established. To fail this is to effecitvely
allow 100% HMOs in the Holyland.
“Yet even a 30% HMO limit is insufficient. In a residential area,
most homes will contain families with a couple of adults. Once an HMO
is established, the dwelling can have 4, 5 or 6 adults in it. You could
still end up with doubling the adult population on a residential street.
“Instead, a lower limit of 20%, 1 in 5 dwellings on the street,
allows for population growth but ensures that the residential character
of the street and area remains. Indeed, the higher limit of 30% is
understood to be the ‘tipping point’ when regular families move out of
a neighbourhood. The proposed plan must take greater consideration of
families and the need to preserve family dwellings.
Allan Leonard concluded: “Alliance is not opposed to the provision
of apartments and flats, to meet the demand from single-occupier
professionals. But this need not come at the price of the destruction
of family-occupied residential areas. A refocus by policy makers on the
benefits of family-based neighbourhoods would bring more sense to the
Planning Service’s proposals.”